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May 4, 2013

Arson suspected in vacant home fires

DUNCAN — In less than an hour, Duncan firefighters and police officers were dealing with two fires tonight. They are being treated as possible arsons because both houses were vacant. In fact, the second structure, which went up in flames just after 10 p.m. was located in a nearly abandoned neighborhood on Elm Street, between Fourth and Fifth Streets.

At least six of the seven homes on the street are vacant. Detective John Byers was visibly upset over the fires.

“Public safety,” he said. The home was surrounded by large cedar trees which the fire was in at the tops. If the fire had not been quickly attacked, it could have easily spread to neighboring structures and even into a block with occupied homes. That concerned Byers.

Meanwhile, while the firefighters were battling the fire, police were in cars and on foot searching for suspects. At one point, they were running down alleys in chase of possible suspects.

“I don’t know if they got anyone,” Byers said, who didn’t have his phone with him. Byers was busy photographing the house as it burned. Several fire trucks were strategically placed on the street (north) in front of the structure and to the south of the block also.

Byers was also concerned about the fact firefighters were having to fight fires unnecessarily as the city deals with drought conditions. Mandatory rationing begins Thursday, as ordered by the city. A proclamation was signed and released to The Banner Friday afternoon, by City Manager Jim Frieda.

“Look at the thousands of gallons pumping. If it’s necessary, that’s one thing, but this ...” Byers said, disgusted with the situation.Firefighters were knocking the structure down after about 45 minutes of working the fire — making the vacant block, one house less. Byers said this was the second time this particular house had burned. He couldn’t remember the date of the first fire, noting that another detective had been assigned to that one. That same detective, Bill Fitzhugh, was at the earlier fire working that scene, Byers said. The first house was at Fourth and Mulberry, just a few blocks east of the second structure.

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