Sen. Casey visits Coatesville arson site

February 19, 2009 9:47:47 AM PST
People in Chester County, Pa. remain on alert following the recent arson fires that have ravaged Coatesville and nearby towns.But, the victims of the burned out homes have an advocate in the form of U.S. Senator Bob Casey.

He toured the area today, and met with those directly impacted by the fires.

Senator Bob Casey had a quick tour of the Fleetwood Street rubble to get a feel of the devastation created by the arson fire that destroyed 15 rowhouses two weekends ago.

It was the largest of the 18 fires so far in Coatesville. There have been five others in surrounding communities.

Casey is not yet committing federal dollars to make the fire victims whole again, or rebuilding this residential block that was built in the mid1930's.

"We don't know if there is a particular discretionary fund in the federal governent, whether it's the Department of Justice or any other agency, but we're exploring that now," said Sen. Casey.

Casey later met with dozens of victims of the Coatesville fires of the new year, like the Thomas' who are parents of 4. They lost virtually everything in the Fleetwood fire.

They say people have been very generous, but they are far from settled. A lease purchase deal suddenly fell through.

"We had furniture lined up, ready to go in the house and everything, and we had to tell them people to take it back to the church," said fire victim John Thomas.

Karen Engle lost her home in an arson fire last November. She is not yet resettled.

"It's hard living with somebody else. We're just waiting for insurance and stuff to come in and it's just taking a long time," Engle said.

City manager Harry Walker says he will ask the city council for $900,000 in emergency reserve money to continue paying police and overtime to the tune now of $100,000 a month.

The police chief says he is going to gradually escalate enforcement of the 8:00 p.m. curfew for teens which began last night.

"We did make curfew violations, we did take people home. There were plainclothes people doing this, for the most part as opposed to uniform people," said Chief Matthews. "Like I said before, we have to do this in a coordinated way that makes sense for the investigation."

Federal and state authorities have been investigating on the ground for weeks now, and they're still trying to catch those responsible for starting the fires.

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

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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