Unauthorized Smoke Break Location May Have Caused Massive Plastic Fire


September 6, 2023, 9:48 pm


POSTED: 09/06/2023 @ 3:45PM


On August 6th, 2023, around 3pm, Albuquerque Fire Rescue (AFR) and Bernalillo County Fire and Rescue (BCFR) responded to a commercial fire at 5301 Hawking Dr SE, which is a plastic manufacturing facility named United Poly Systems. The massive fire was seen from all over the city and surrounding towns. At one point the fire became immense entertainment for numerous citizens who drove from as far away as Rio Rancho to watch the building burn. This caused a massive crowd to control as many people came to watch the facility burn and see fire crews fight the fire.

Today a month later, Albuquerque Fire have released findings in the cause of the fire and what the investigation found. According to, AFR immediately began their investigation on August 6, interviewing the facility manager and gathering information. The investigation continued to subsequent days, in which investigators processed the scene, took photos, interviewed staff, and examined the single vehicle involved.

Staff interviews confirmed they saw the fire and tried to extinguish it but it was beyond their capabilities. Investigators discovered a car was parked in an unauthorized location and near where employees took smoke breaks. There was no admission from staff or evidence that a cigarette was thrown and started the fire.

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Although this is one of the hypotheses developed by fire investigators, it could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

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There are no criminal findings or evidence that the fire was intentionally started. Fire investigators considered the cause to be determined as accidental, however, due to the lack of physical evidence, video footage, and interview statements, this could not be proven beyond reasonable doubt. Therefore, fire investigators have officially classified the cause of the fire as undetermined, pending further workable information.

The e-mail sent to ABQ RAW did not specify the brand of cigarettes found near the area.


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