A three-alarm fire that broke out early the morning of Sunday, Jan. 8, destroyed the Nugget International lambskin plant in Greeley, CO, and investigators are trying to determine if there is a link between the fire and break-ins at the HSG Colorado Tanner Plant in Denver.

The three break-ins occurred between October and December 2001. The perpetrators left behind a warning that their next attack would be arson. Nugget International was not threatened or vandalized prior to the fire.

Losses at the Monfort-owned plant are estimated at $5 million. Destroyed were $2 million in wool and sheepskins, $1 million in processing equipment, and the $2 million, 56,000-square-foot building.

But the company, which processes 6,000 sheepskins a day, is already back in business. Led by Nugget International owner Mike Wheeler, company employees scrambled to round up lumber for make-shift tables and salt for curing hides, and are working in a nearby location.

"In 11 years we've never missed a day and it was sort of a challenge that we weren't going to miss this one either," said Wheeler in an interview with Denver Channel 9 reporter Roger Wolfe on Monday, Jan. 14.

Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the blaze.

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