Fire Damages Boca Burger Plant in New Mexico

HOBBS, N.M. (AP) -- Thick, black clouds of smoke blocked out the sun as firefighters worked to extinguish flames that ripped through a factory here that makes Boca Burgers and other foods.

Investigators late Monday were trying to determine how the blaze started. It originated in an area of the building that contained oil used for cooking and spread, causing damage throughout the plant.

``It reached its ignition point,'' Fire Chief Manny Gomez said. ``We believe it was in the ceiling and moved through the crawl spaces.''

All of the employees were evacuated, as were homes on the west side of the building. The fire also forced police to block off nearby streets. No one was injured.

Employee Oralia Baeza said she and her co-workers smelled smoke at about 4:20 p.m.

``And then we looked up and we could see the smoke coming down inside the plant,'' she said.

S.G. Cobb, chairman of RMS Foods, which leases the plant to Boca Burger Inc., said Monday's fire was the first in 46 years of operation. RMS Foods employs about 100 people to produce food such as Boca Burgers, Boca Breakfast Patties and Boca Tenders and Nuggets.

Company officials could not say how long the plant would be closed due to the damage. They planned to meet with insurance officials Tuesday to develop a business interruption plan.