Coatesville hit with another arson

January 22, 2009 3:41:00 PM PST
It has happened again in Coatesville, Chester County - an arsonist has set yet another destructive fire in that area.There were two fires at about the same time around midnight Thursday.

One fire was at 1100 block of Olive Street.

The blaze sent residents running into the cold just after midnight.

Fortunately no one was injured.

While firefighters fought that blaze, investigators say someone set a trash can on fire, which was wedged underneath a house two miles away.

That fire was put out before there was any major damage.

Concern among the community continues to grow. At least 20 homes have been set on fire so far this year.

According to the city, there have been 28 cases of arson fires in Coatesville starting last summer. But now the pace has accelerated, with at least 13 cases so far this year.

Investigators say they have stepped up surveillance in the area. Police were nearby the home on Olive Street last night, but somehow someone crept up the external wooden stairs and set a fire to the structure.

A man who lives on the first floor of the dwelling spotted the fire out a window. When he went to investigate the man found the balcony upstairs in flames.

The upstairs residents were trapped until police arrived.

On average someone, or some group of people, have set a fire in this town of 12,000 during this month. The problems actually began last year. Primary targets appear to be porches and balconies.

There was one fatality in December, with the death of Irene Kempest. Arrests have been made but still the fires persist.

Coatesville City Manager Harry Walker is frustrated. "We're under attack by someone who's demented - or persons. We don't really know what has precipitated it. We know that we've had a number of arrests for both Coatesville and surrounding areas, and we thought we were done," explained Walker.

Authorities say they do have some people of interest, which they are watching very carefully at this point. So far, three people have been arrested, but the fires continue.

There has been some speculation that this could be some sort of bizarre initiation ritual for a gang. But that remains to be just a speculation.

PHONE NUMBERS: People with tips on suspicious activity should call Roving Police Supervisor at 610-636-0514

Citizens Crime Commission is offering a reward up to $5,000 in connection with the arson spree. They can be contacted at 21-546-TIPS.

Crimestoppers is offering an undisclosed cash reward in connection with the arson spree. They can be contacted at 1-800-4-PA-TIPS.

You can get the latest crime statistics from the Philadelphia Police by CLICKING HERE for the force's crime data mapping site.