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August 6, 2010

Box factory fire ruled suspicious

Workers believe arson attempt took place two weeks ago

MINERAL WELLS — Though there was significant damage, firefighters and a sprinkler system were able to put out a suspicious fire around noon Friday on the second floor of the Texas Packaging Company box manufacturing plant.

The fire started on an off day for the business, located on N.W. 7th Street, in the sewing room that hadn't been used since mid-June, according to company president Heidi Rincon.

The fire is under investigation as a suspicious fire, Mineral Wells Fire Chief Robin Allen said Friday afternoon.

Rincon and her husband, Albert Rincon, and employee Betsy Oldham were in the office section of the building at the other end from the fire when the fire started.

“I was sitting at my desk and heard the fire alarm go off,” Heidi Rincon said.

Rincon said they called firefighters and her husband went to investigate.

The smaller room on the south end of the building was full of smoke when they opened the door and they were unsure how much had gone up in flames at that point, Rincon said. “You don't stay in this building to find out.”

“I'm just glad we got a sprinkler system,” Albert Rincon said.

“The sprinkler system did a good job, what it was intended to do,” Allen said.

Smoke was visible from the second story when firefighters and volunteer firefighters arrived but they were able to quickly get it under control.

“The bad thing about that second floor is it's all wood,” Oldham said.

The second floor and portions o the first floor sustained heavy smoke and water damage. No injuries were reported.

Next door, First Christian Church provided ice water to firefighters as the outside temperature neared 100 degrees.

In addition to fire and smoke damage, Allen said there was significant water damage across the second floor and below.

The 30-year-old business currently employs 37 workers and they were preparing to add a shift for their busy season, Rincon said.

The fire comes on the heels of other suspicious activity at the business the last two weeks.

Rincon believes someone tried to set the business on fire around July 27.

A heater was turned on and put inside a cardboard box full of papers in the production area of the building but was found in the morning by an employee before it ignited, according to Rincon.

Tuesday and Wednesday mornings they found the loading dock door open slightly as if someone had left the building through it overnight, Rincon said.

They haven't noticed anything stolen, “nothing big anyway that we know of,” Rincon said.

According to Rincon, they locked up the place tight as a drum, including bolting windows, and police were scoping out the business overnight, just hours before the fire, to try to catch the intruder.

Index staff writer Christin Coyne can be reached at (940) 325-4465, ext. 3428, or ccoyne@mineralwellsindex.com.

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