A Monday morning fire at the Tucumcari Animal Hospital claimed the lives of over 50 animals, Fire Chief Mike Cherry said.
"I did my best to get everybody out," said Veterinarian Jean P. Corey, "though it was too late for a majority of them."
Tucumcari Police Chief Jason Braziel said the department is working with state police to determine if the animal hospital fire has a connection to two other recent suspicious fires in Tucumcari.
Cherry said fires at the state probation office are being investigated as arson and the cause of fires at the historic Sands-Dorsey building is still under investigation.
Corey described the animal hospital as "an active crime scene."
Cherry said officials do not know the cause of the blaze, but he said it is suspicious.
Cherry said city fire crews responded to a call at 3:50 a.m., Monday on the 100 block of North 10th Street. He said the south side of the building was fully engulfed in flames when crews arrived.
Cherry said there were no indications any animal died as a result of being burned. He said though a cause of death has yet to be determined, the animals that died appeared to have succumbed to smoke inhalation.
Corey said she was at the clinic at 10 p.m., Sunday night checking on the animals. She said when she left everything was all right.
"Some of those animals have lived here for 20 years," Corey said. "I have cared for them most of their life."
Corey said she was unsure of the number of animals in the hospital that died, but she knew each of them by name. She said she will contact owners of the animals being kept at the hospital once investigators release the scene.
"I don't even know what's left inside," she said.
Corey said the computers where the records were stored were burned, but she may have backup files she can access.
A relief fund has been established at Citizens Bank. Donations can be delivered to Citizens Bank at 211 E. Main or mailed to P.O. Box 1228, Tucumcari, NM 88401. Checks should be payable to Tucumcari Animal Hospital with a note in the memo stating "Relief Fund".
Tucumcari MainStreet is bundling donations to offer a substantial reward for information leading to solving the fire crimes in Tucumcari. MainStreet has established a seperate account at Citizens Bank specifically for this purpose. To donate, you can contact MainStreet at 575-770-4659 or stop by Citizens Bank at 211 E. Main.