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Duncan Facing Water Shortage in Midst of Arson Rise

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DUNCAN Okla_ The City of Duncan is trying to conserve water, but that's tough to do when firefighters are being forced to use thousands of gallons to fight intentionally-set fires.

At least 10 structure fires are being investigated as arson cases in just the past few months. The latest: two abandoned house fires over the weekend that investigators are labeling suspicious.

An average person uses about 50 gallons of water for a shower. Firemen have to use around 6,000 to fight a fire. The amount of water it takes to fight one fire is the equivalent of 120 showers.

Everyone agrees: it's ridiculous to fight unnecessary fires, but firemen have to do their job no matter what. A house on West Elm caught on fire twice, once a couple of months ago, then again Saturday night. 

"That is the second time the structure had been set on fire intentionally," Duncan Police Detective John Byers said.

Arson has been a problem in Duncan for a few months now, but Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Hammack said with water restrictions on the horizon, continuous arson within the city is causing even more of a concern.

"It's harmful to the community if people are intentionally are setting these fires and causing the use of water," Hammack said.

Fighting fires because of arson is obviously not causing the city to resort to Stage 2 Water Restrictions. Hammack said the restriction means the department can't do its annual checks of hoses and hydrants.

"If you're testing your hoses and water system every year, it's less likely that you will have a problem when fighting a fire," Hammack said.

Those luxuries will have to wait for a better time with more water. In the meantime, everyone will just have to hope for the best, meaning the equipment will function properly when needed and the arson will stop.

"It is a big concern," Byers said. "Do we have one person setting these? Do we have multiple people?"

One thing is for sure: Byers and his team are working tirelessly to figure that question out.

Public Works Director Scott Vaughn said arson is not only wasteful but costly to the city. It has to pay for the water being used to fight fires. He understands that fires will happen, but he said intentional fires are completely unnecessary.

Duncan will move into Stage 2 Water Restrictions on Thursday. This is mandatory restriction of outside watering.

The city will use the odd-even system, with odd-numbered addresses watering on odd-numbered days.  The hours are also limited to between midnight and 9:00 AM.

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