Coatesville struck with 20th arson

March 15, 2009 10:12:52 AM PDT
The arson-plagued Philadelphia suburb of Coatesville was struck by yet another deliberately set fire early Saturday, the 20th in the city so far this year, authorities said. The 1:30 a.m. blaze badly damaged two homes on East Valley Road in the city, authorities said.

90-year-old Jenney Kabli was among those forced out into the cold overnight when she learned her next door neighbor's house was on fire.

"I didn't know what to do, I didn't know what to think," Jenney said.

Carmen Lemus and her fiance scrambled out of the arson fire in their rental home last night saving the lives of her 3 young children and Carmen's brother.

237 and 239 East Valley Street were set ablaze around 1:30 Saturday morning when trash was deliberately ignited in the alleyway between the houses.

The Lemus family lost nearly all their material possessions.

The owner of the gutted house next door refused to comment. Ironically, the Lemus family had just watched Action News accounts of yesterday's court hearing for Roger Barlow, Jr., who is charged with nine of the arson fires that have plagued Coatesville over the past several months, including the late January fire that destroyed 15 row homes on Fleetwood Street.

Barlow has allegedly confessed, but entered a plea of not guilty yesterday in West Chester.

The Lemus family who had to extinguish an attempted arson fire during that January spree thought those tense days were behind them.

"We thought it was over?and we were wrong," Carmen said.

The Lemus family has been given shelter in one of the properties owned by their landlord.

"We got to think of the people around here; the city of Coatesville has to band together," landlord Max Miller said.

The joint task force of federal, state, county, and local law enforcement authorities say they have launched an investigation into last nights fires.

Authorities last month also announced charges against Mark Gilliam, 19, of West Chester, who is accused of setting a fire at a restaurant in nearby Thorndale. In December, three people were arrested in other arsons, including a December blaze that killed an 83-year-old woman.

Despite multiple arrests, the people of Coatesville are living this nightmare again.

Coatesville has had at least 46 arsons since February 2008. At least 18 other arsons have occurred in nearby communities during the same period.


The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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