As I noted in my post of 6 weeks ago, all indications were that a firefighter was responsible for setting some of the arson fires in Coatesville, PA, Chester County. My biggest fear because a reality today. The following report is resposted with permission of WPVI-TV, Philadelphia.
COATESVILLE, Pa. - March 23, 2009 (WPVI) -- The Chester County, PA Arson Task Force announced late Monday that the assistant fire chief of the Coatesville Fire Department has been arrested in the arson spree plaguing Coatesville and surrounding communities.
Police say they've arrested Robert Tracey, 37, of the 600 block of Charles Street in Coatesville. Tracey had been a volunteer assistant fire chief for the West End Fire Company, one of two companies that make up the Coatesville Fire Department. Tracey recently became employed as a part-time career firefighter for the city.
The criminal complaint lists nine charges against Tracey in relation to the two arsons of March 20, 2009 at 669 Madison Street, Coatesville, Pa., and 107 Hope Street, Coatesville, Pa.
The home on Madison Street belonged to Felicia Taylor. She told Action News that her lawn furniture was set on fire when an arsonist struck. She and her fiance were inside her home when a neighbor came banging on the door saying something was burning behind the house.
"The swing was right up against the house out back. So we pulled it away from the house and out to the yard so it wouldn't burn the house," Buddy Miller said.
"I ran down in the basement, turned the water on, and got the hose and extinguished it out," Felicia Taylor said. A second fire on the 100 block of Hope Street occurred in a trash can between two homes, two blocks away on Hope street. Residents of the homes report spotting the arsonist.
One woman described what her fiance saw: "He saw a young man at the trash can with a lighter you would light a grill with, and the sensor light didn't even seem to phase him."
"The arsonist is bold because there's a lot of lights back there. I have two sets of motion lights back there and I have dawn to duskers in front," Paul Evans, the victim's landlord, said.
Both fires were quickly extinguished. Nobody was hurt in either fire.
Tracey was appointed Assistant Chief, from Engine Captain, during the rash of arsons in January and February. In his new position, Tracey worked in operations as a safety officer and water supply officer.
There have been nearly 50 arsons in Coatesville since February of last year, and more than 20 have been set just this year. Two suspects, Roger Barlow and Mark Gilliam, have been charged in 10 of them.