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Weekend Coatesville fire ruled arson

January 27, 2009 3:38:46 PM PST
A fire that tore through 15 homes Saturday night in Coatesville, Pa., has been ruled an arson.There have been dozens of intentionally set fires in the town since last year, and 14 this month alone.

The weekend blaze has not been linked to other arson cases.

"Yeah, it worries me, because I think I'm going to be the next victim," said Ed Foster of Coatesville. "What can you do?"

The fires, along with who is setting them and why they're being set is on everyone's mind in town. At a news conference Monday, local, state and federal officials announced they were working together to solve the case.

Action News has learned that one direction investigators are following are certain videos posted online. Investigators want to talk to those who made the videos.

Coatesville remains under a state of emergency, as city officials consider a massive cleanup of materials that may become fuel for a firebug.

City residents are being told to remove items that could be used to start a fire, such as upholstered material and light trash, from the outside of their homes. Those who don't comply could face fines.

It's precisely because the arsonist is using whatever materials are handy that makes this case difficult to crack. Since evidence goes up in smoke, authorities often rely on phone calls from tipsters.

Meanwhile, the idea of an nighttime curfew remains under consideration.

"We absolutely do not want to rush into instituting a curfew," said Kristen Geiger of the City of Coatesville. "If a curfew is necessary, we're evaluating it on a day-by-day basis so it will have the least impact on our residents as possible."

There has been significant response so far for donations of clothing and other items for fire victims.

One couple from South Philadelphia donated a truckload of items.

"We contacted family and friends and we collected a lot of coats, a lot of warm clothing," said donor Anna Rose Cusick. "There's some household things, I put some towels and washcloths, things that people would need in an emergency."

Reward Fund

A reward fund has been set up to help catch those responsible for the fires. Contributions can be sent to:

Citadel Federal Credit Union
Coatesville Reward Fund
Attn: Office Manager
135 Modena Road
Coatesville, PA 19320

Another fund has been set up to help the people affected by the fires. Donations can be sent to:

Citadel Federal Credit Union
Coatesville Family Fund
Attn: Office Manager
135 Modena Road
Coatesville, PA 19320

The Brandywine Health Foundation announced on Monday it was contributing $10,000 to the Coatesville Family Fund. They're urging others to donate as well.

Phone Numbers:

Coatesville Police Hotline: (610) 636-0514

Citizen's Crime Commission: 215-546-TIPS

Crimestoppers: 1-800-4-PA-TIPS.

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