Latest Coatesville house fire 'accidental'

March 16, 2009 11:50:42 AM PDT
A vacant home went up in flames in the Coatesville area overnight. The latest fire comes just days after that area of Chester County recorded its 20th arson of the year. At this point any fire there makes big news, and causes great worry.

Coatesville residents were just starting to breathe easy and rebuild. In fact, some of the homes along Fleetwood Street are being renovated. A block away fifteen homes were destroyed by arson.

But now fires are burning again. One over the weekend is considered an arson.

Monday morning's fire broke out shortly after midnight in a home believed to be vacant on the 100 block of Gibbons Avenue in South Coatesville. Firefighters got the blaze under control in about 45 minutes.

Chester County Chief Fire Marshal Harrison Holt announced Monday that the fire has been determined to be accidental, caused by a portable cooking appliance and damage has been estimated at $48,000.

Early Saturday morning a fire badly damaged two homes on East Valley Road. Investigators believe that fire was intentionally set. The tenants in one of the homes made it out just in time. Now their landlord is helping them move to temporary housing.

"It's mindboggling," said landlord Max Miller. "To know it could have been my family too. I mean, it could be any family around here. It's what's a shame."

Saturday's fire broke out just one day after 19-year-old Roger Barlow Jr. was held for trial on charges of aggravated assault and arson. He pled not guilty, but investigators say Barlow admitted to setting 9 fires since the start of the year.

Barlow's friend, Mark Gilliam, is in federal custody, accused of trying to ignite a Thorndale restaurant.

There have been at least 46 arsons in the Coatesville area since February of last year. Nearly three quiet weeks went by without a fire. Now, residents' fears have been reignited.

One resident told Action News, "You kind of thought it was all over. You had some people in custody and you thought it was done. Then we see this happen again. It just, you know, brings those fears back again."

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