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February 24, 2013

Investigation comes to a close for Foursquare Gospel fire

DUNCAN — As early as Tuesday, the investigation into the Foursquare Gospel Church prompted the idea a gas furnace could have been responsible. Friday, it was ruled the furnace did play a role in the blaze. Part of that idea came from witness reports indicating an explosion was heard.

Det. John Byers with the Duncan Police Department and Judah Shepherd with the State Fire Marshal’s Office led the investigation into the fire. Byers said the investigation began with the gas furnace and the gas lines, but expanded to inspect other options with hopes of eliminating those that didn’t result in the fire.

“We’d been looking at a gas furnace and a gas water heater,” Byers said. “That is where we knew the fire had started. We knew there was a gas leak in that area or something in that area.”

The fire began mid-morning Monday inside the church at Fifth and Pine, and by the time firefighters reached the scene, it was fully involved. Despite the turnout from Duncan firefighters and volunteer fire departments throughout Stephens County, the building was a total loss, leaving one interior wall still standing. The building was empty at the time of the fire. Foursquare Gospel moved out of the building toward the beginning of the month to a building on Willow because of the expense in having such a large building for a smaller congregation.

On Wednesday, Duncan Deputy Fire Chief Dayton Burnside requested photos and videos of the fire scene before and during the fire. Burnside said these photos helped in determining the cause of the fire. Burnside said the fire investigation went well and was an example of multiple entities working together successfully. He said the investigation wasn’t just sifting through ashes, but required quite a bit of thought and observation from Byers and Shepherd.

“There’s always a lot to it,” Burnside said about the fire investigation. “They did a wonderful, complete job. They looked at every avenue, every possibility.”

While the cause has been determined, more work must be completed, though Byers didn’t speculate as to what that would be. Byers said the final fire report should be completed midway through this week.

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