The Duncan Banner

February 20, 2013

Sifting through the ashes

Derrick Miller
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN —  

Much like the Wall of Jericho, the walls of Foursquare Gospel Church came tumbling down.
An investigation into Monday’s fire at the church on Fifth and Pine, continued Tuesday with Duncan Police Det. John Byers and State Fire Marshal associate Judah Shepherd taking lead.
“We’re following gas lines, looking at the gas furnace,” Byers said. “That’s where we’re starting. If we don’t find it (the cause) there, we’ll move onto electric.
“We’re trying to eliminate each step. We’re looking at the fire pattern.”
Byers said, from talking with witnesses and first arrival firefighters, the blaze appeared to have started in the front room of the building, where the gas furnace and gas water heater were located.
He said the investigation would focus on this area unless it is determined otherwise.
“It’s going to take us some time,” Byers said. “We were here until about 8 o’clock last night (Monday). We’ll be here until we’re done.”
The fire spurred all Duncan firefighters into action just after 10:30 a.m. Monday when it happened. Numerous other area fire departments and police officers responded to assist. 
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Foursquare Gospel was founded in August 2001, when 13 people met in the home of Owen and Hazel Clark. By May 2005, the congregation had grown, and the church program moved into the location at Fifth and Pine. Previously, the building had been home to the First Assembly of God and also Cornerstone Assembly of God.
On Feb. 3, Foursquare had its last service in that church building before moving to a new location.
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Duncan Deputy Fire Chief Dayton Burnside said he isn’t sure how much the building was insured for but estimated the loss of the structure, which didn’t have contents inside, to be about $300,000. He said the investigation into the church fire is still ongoing, but there are hopes to find a resolution soon.
“We still have men out there, investigating and keeping a watch for hot spots,” Burnside said. “We had men out there overnight.”
Duncan Fire Department enlisted help from other fire departments in the county, from Marlow to Comanche, from Empire to Velma to help get the fire under control.
Burnside said the county commissioners also helped with the water supply.
Burnside and Assistant Fire Chief Bobby Beck had concerns relating to the fire scene.
Beck said the fire caused some damage to surrounding fire poles, which was a concern of the City of Duncan. Duncan Power sent out workers to work on the lines in the area.
“One of them is one of the main transfer poles for the City of Duncan,” Beck said.
David Yeager, Duncan Power director, said a few poles were scorched by the fire, but the main concern had been soot falling on the power lines.
“The only reason we were concerned is that soot gets up on the power lines and they can short out,” Yeager said. “Our transmission line has 148,000 volts.
“We made sure there was no damage. We don’t anticipate any problems.”
For Burnside, an obstacle added to the firefighters was the number of people moving toward the fire instead of away. The smoke of the fire could be seen from miles away, drawing attention of commuters and bystanders.
“That’s unfortunately human nature,” Burnside said. 
“It does create a safety hazard for everyone on the scene. It’s one more thing we have to pay attention to.
“We had bystanders walking up. Law enforcement did help control the scene. We did have people running over fire hoses so they could get a better look.
“That’s tax dollars. That’s $1,000 for 100 feet of hose. If they get holes, we have to replace them.”
Beck described the remains of the church as “total destruction.” Beck said there were plenty of things for the firefighters to keep an eye on, from other flare ups to where the walls of the church fell.
He said the tar roof of the church didn’t help matters because it added a cloud of black smoke for the firefighters move work against.
“That’s probably the blackest smoke I’ve seen in a long time,” Beck said.