Firefighter arrested for Coatesville arsons

March 24, 2009 9:48:07 AM PDT
The Chester County Arson Task Force announced late Monday that a firefighter of the Coatesville Fire Department has been arrested in the arson spree plaguing Coatesville and surrounding communities.Police say they've arrested Robert Tracey, 37, of the 600 block of Charles Street in Coatesville.

Tracey is a firefighter for the Coatesville Fire Department.

The criminal complaint lists nine charges against Tracey in relation to the two arsons of March 20, 2009 at 669 Madison Street, Coatesville, Pa., and 107 Hope Street, Coatesville, Pa.

Tracey was featured in an Action News report in January when he was still serving as assistant fire chief, a man who had been named firefighter of the year in 2004.

What's mind boggling to authorities is that Tracey had the advantage that most arsonists would not have: access to inside information as to where police were looking at any time.

The home on Madison Street belonged to Felicia Taylor. She told Action News that her lawn furniture was set on fire when an arsonist struck.

She and her fiance were inside her home when a neighbor came banging on the door saying something was burning behind the house.

"The swing was right up against the house out back. So we pulled it away from the house and out to the yard so it wouldn't burn the house," Buddy Miller said.

"I ran down in the basement, turned the water on, and got the hose and extinguished it out," Felicia Taylor said.

A second fire on the 100 block of Hope Street occurred in a trash can between two homes, two blocks away on Hope street. Residents of the homes report spotting the arsonist.

One woman described what her fiance saw: "He saw a young man at the trash can with a lighter you would light a grill with, and the sensor light didn't even seem to phase him."

"The arsonist is bold because there's a lot of lights back there. I have two sets of motion lights back there and I have dawn to duskers in front," Paul Evans, the victim's landlord, said.

Both fires were quickly extinguished.

Nobody was hurt in either fire.

Tracey is being held at Chester County prison in lieu of $2-million bond.

There have been nearly 50 arsons in Coatesville since February of last year, and more than 20 have been set just this year. Two suspects, Roger Barlow and Mark Gilliam, have been charged in 10 of them.

State Police say Barlow, of Downingtown, Pa., admitted guilt to nine of the fires, including the devastating Fleetwood Street fire on January 24 and a fire on Chester Avenue on February 3.

Gilliam, of West Chester, Pa., was arrested on a federal charge for the Jan. 25, 2009, attempted arson of the Happy Days Family Bistro in Thorndale, Pa.

Coverage Archive of Coatesville files:
March 21, 2009 - Overnight fires declared arson
March 21, 2009 - 2 fires quickly extenguished in Coatesville
March 15, 2009 - Latest arson reignites fear in Coatesville
March 13, 2009 - Coatesville arson suspect faces trial
March 12, 2009 - Coatesville on edge despite arrests
February 19, 2009 Coatesville officials discuss arson costs
February 11, 2009 - Helping Coatesville kids cope with fires
February 9, 2009 - Sen. Casey visits Coatesville arson site
February 4, 2009 - Coatesville arson cleanup
February 3, 2009 - Another fire breaks out a home in Coatesville
February 2, 2009 - Reward for Coatesville arsons hiked
January 27, 2009 - One of the men behind the Coatesville fires
December 9, 2009 Suspect in deadly arson arrested
December 8, 2008 - Woman hurt in Coatesville arson dies

SLIDES: Coatesville fires and aftermath
SLIDES: Coatesville 7-alarm blaze

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