About 10:40 a.m. Monday, Duncan firefighters responded to a fire at Foursquare Gospel Church at Fifth and Pine. The fire destroyed the church building. Attacking the fire meant bringing in firefighters who were on their days off and bringing in numerous fire departments from throughout Stephens County.
The building was a total loss, Duncan Deputy Fire Chief Dayton Burnside said.
The cause of the fire is unknown, but the building was completely involved by the time the firefighters arrived. It did not appear that anybody was inside the structure. Burnside said the fire is under investigation, which is being led by the state fire marshal and Detective John Byers of the Duncan Police Department.
“It won’t be until this evening or tomorrow (Tuesday) before it’s cool enough before they can get in there,” Burnside said.
The Duncan Fire Department had a full crew at the scene, including units from both sub-stations and three units from the main department. Fire trucks, police units and cones were used to block off the area to traffic and onlookers who gravitated toward the fire in an effort to see what was burning.
Other fire departments throughout Stephens County responded to the fire, Burnside said. Marlow, Comanche, Empire Velma and Meridian volunteer fire departments were quickly on the scene, and Bray Volunteer Fire Department arrived and was put on standby. Burnside said there were about 16 firefighters on scene, including Ryan Ellis and Donny Wainscott, who were the first two firefighters on the scene.
Burnside said there were no injuries involved with the fire. One neighboring house was damaged when the wall of the church collapsed.
Duncan Assistant Fire Chief Bobby Biffle and Burnside said this is the first time in at least two years Duncan firefighters have responded to a fire of this magnitude. Biffle said it took some doing to get the fire under control because the fire was already moving quickly through the building.
“We pulled up and it was totally rolling,” Biffle said.
Garrett Austin, a Duncan firefighter, said he hasn’t seen anything like the church fire since he joined the department about four years ago. Austin was on the third truck to arrive at the scene.
“What’s crazy was the total loss,” Austin said. “We usually stop it before we lose it. It might be gutted, but we usually stop it.”
Austin said firefighters who were on their days off came in to help get the fire under control.
Aside from ensuring there was enough manpower to respond to the fire, there were other concerns for the Duncan Fire Department. Biffle said one of the main concerns was the wind.
“The wind keeps shifting,” Biffle said.
Because of the shifting wind, it was hard for firefighters to predict what direction the fire would attempt to move. The strength of the wind was carrying the fire across Pine to neighboring houses.
Biffle said one house had a corner catch fire because of the fire at the church building. Firefighters, armed with water hoses, stood on the north and south sides, attempting to keep the fire from spreading to other structures.
Burnside said firefighters were set to remain on the scene throughout Monday night into the morning to keep a lookout for hot spots. He said firefighters would rotate every three hours.
“It will probably smolder for a few days,” Burnside said.
The church membership had moved to another location two weeks ago and the original building was put up for sale. Pastor Toby Clark said the last service was held Feb. 3.
Reporter Rebeka Rutledge contributed to this story.