Federal investigators have sifted through the burnt remains of a Colorado lambskin processing plant, trying to determine if it was arson that destroyed the facility.

Besides the ATF, the FBI has joined local police and firefighters in the investigation at the plant, operated by Nugget International in Greeley, about 50 miles northeast of Denver.

The investigators were also looking into criminal acts last year at another tannery in Denver. Vandalism markings in one case indicated a link to the militant animal rights group Animal Liberation Front. Officials stressed that no link has been found between those acts and the blaze at the Nugget plant.

‘We’re aware of incidents at similar plants in the metro-area. We’d be foolish not to compare notes with our contemporaries, and we’ve done that’, said Greeley police Sgt John Gates. ‘But we’re very open-minded to the fact that this could be accidental. If the fire is deemed suspicious, involvement by an extremist group would be deemed as one of many possibilities’, he added.

Animal Liberation Front spokesman David Barbarash said that no one in his group has claimed responsibility for the fire but ‘the fact that Nugget International was the largest facility of its kind in the country makes it even more of a target for animal rights activists.’

Gates said the plant owned by Omaha, Nebraska-based ConAgra and operated by Nugget International of Greeley, contained 125,000 lambskins and 250,000 pounds of wool when it burned. Damage is estimated to be in excess of US$5 million.

Source: The Associated Press State & Local Wire