Suspicious fires in Chester County

February 1, 2009 10:19:17 AM PST
In Chester County, three more suspicious fires are keeping Federal investigators busy this morning.

The fires occurred in three communities neighboring the arson-plagued city of Coatesville.

A fire lit up the side of a home on Smith Farm Drive in Sadsbury Township shortly after 3:00 am, Saturday morning.

Officials say the fire started in a trash can and spread to the back of the house. The homeowners say they were sleeping inside when they heard a bang and saw the flames.

A few hours earlier, two other suspicious fires broke out in neighboring Valley Township at around 12:30. The fires were set in furniture on the porches of both homes along the 200 block of Church Street, mirroring several arson cases in Coatesville.

Another blaze burned on the front porch of a home on Woodland Avenue in Modena.

Cassaundra Clinton lives in Modena, the scene of one of the four Saturday morning fires.

"It's just very frightening that someone is intentionally destroying people's property and putting other people's lives at risk," Clinton said.

John Hageman, an ATF Special Agent and spokesman for the newly formed Chester County Arson Task Force, said they are taking much interest in the fires proximity to Coatesville.

"[These] four fires?are all within the three miles of the city of Coatesville," Hageman said.

Today, area firefighters joined forces to install smoke detectors in homes, while urging residents to clear their porches and yards of anything that could be set on fire.

However, it was clear Saturday night that not everyone was heeding the advice.

Cassaundra Clinton admits she too had ignored the warnings until now.

"I didn't really heed the warning, but now I have to; my husband and I are in the process of taking everything off of our porch and putting inside what can go inside," Clinton said.

Police, fire, and township officials convened a crisis meeting in Valley Township this morning.

They've had five arson fires this year and several last year.

Today, they declared a state of emergency.

The arson task force gathered evidence from these latest fires, but, so far, don't know if they're dealing with one perpetrator, a gang, or copycats.

An additional 2-alarm fire broke out at 1:30 p.m on the 300 block of Fariview Street in Wallace Township just 25 minutes outside of Coatesville. Officials say the fire does not appear suspicous at this time. No one was home the time the fire took place. Firefighters were able to bring the blaze under control at around 3:30 p.m.

Sadsbury officials, like leaders in Coatesville, are now asking people to keep their porches clear and to leave porch lights on at night.

There were no new fires in Coatesville overnight but people there are still living in fear.

Firefighters went door to door, inspecting smoke detectors and installing new ones if needed.

They got help from dozens of volunteers, fire personnel from all over Chester County and beyond.

Federal agents and state police met with Coatesville police on Friday. There are still no breaks in the string of arsons that have terrorized the community.

City officials say a thousand motion detector lights will be available for purchase at City Hall on Monday.

Authorities hope the lights will help deter further fires.

CLICK HERE to follow Action News on Twitter

CLICK HERE to get Action News on your website

CLICK HERE to find Action News on Facebook

Click here to get the latest Philadelphia news and headlines from across the Delaware and Lehigh valleys.