State of Emergency in Coatesville

January 25, 2009 9:00:34 PM PST
Chaos erupted at a standing room meeting in Coatesville's City Hall where residents came desperately seeking answers. Answers were hoped to come from authorities, however, when residents showed up no authority figure had arrived yet, angering the Coatesville citizens more.

Some called for prayers until those authorities arrived, but even that prompted tempers to flare.

Police escorted some angry residents from the meeting.

City officials say the intent of the meeting was to get neighborhood watch volunteers, now that a state of emergency has been officially declared.

Informational neighborhood watch meetings are also scheduled for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday and 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

Click here for map of suspicious fires from December 7, 2008 to January 24, 2009 in the Coatesville area.

People who want to help the Red Cross provide disaster relief for this and other local disasters can make a donation online at www.redcross-philly.org.

As first reported on 6abc.com, a 7-alarm fire erupted at 11:31 p.m. Saturday night in the 300 block of Fleetwood Street.

It was started in the rear of two homes, 346 and 348, and spread quickly to neighboring homes.

The fire took 150 firefighters 3 hours to bring the blaze under control.

As Saturday turned to Sunday, the 150 firefigthers were able to get the 7-alarm blaze under control at 2:07 am.

In all, 15 homes were destroyed, leaving 14 families are left without a home. The American Red Cross Southeastern PA Chapter tells Action News they are providing services, including financial assistance for food and clothing, and hotel accommodations to the 50 people, including 8 children, affected by the fire.

Residents were evacuated and bused to Gordon Elementary School on Kersey Street in Chester County. The have since been taken to a nearby Holiday Inn.

City Council member Robin Scott is among those who lost their home in the fire late Saturday.

One firefighter suffered a badly sprained ankle and was taken to Brandywine Hospital.

Authorities say the fire has caused an estimated $2-million dollars in property damages so far.

This is the 14th suspicious fire, presumed to be arson, in Coatesville this month. And last year, Fire Chief Kevin Johnson says, Coatesville had 15 deliberately set fires. A $5,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever is setting fires in Coatesville.

Firefighters were called to put out two blazes just before midnight Wednesday.

In December, three people were charged with arson. One of the fires killed an 83-year-old woman.

The Citizens Crime Commission announced the reward on Thursday. Geiger says the city is also seeking volunteers for block watches.

Johnson says firefighters have been going door-to-door, offering free smoke detectors and batteries.

The city of Coatesville has a declared a formal state of emergency, giving it the immediate power to acquire resources it may need as it continues to try to battle this plague of fires that have hit the city.

Federal agents have joined the investigation.

PHONE NUMBERS: People with tips on suspicious activity should call Roving Police Supervisor at 610-636-0514

Citizens Crime Commission is offering a reward up to $5,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction. They can be contacted at 215-546-TIPS.

Crimestoppers is offering an undisclosed cash reward in connection with the arson spree. They can be contacted at 1-800-4-PA-TIPS.

Click here for map of suspicious fires from December 7, 2008 to January 24, 2009 in the Coatesville area.

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The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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