Firefighter Nation News -- The Coatesville arson case took a more dramatic turn Monday when a veteran fire officer was charged in connections with two recent fires. (New: Read Fire Department Statement)

There were no injuries or significant property damage in two fires Friday night. The fires involved involved trash and furniture outside of a structure.


Robert Tracey, 37, was a member of the Coatesville Fire Department. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported he was a former captain of Coatesville's West End Fire Company, recently hired by the city as a part-time firefighter, a move that forced him to give up his volunteer rank. WFMZ said he was formerly an Assistant Chief.

The Associated Press reported that one of the fires in December displaced Tracy's mother from her home.

Media outlets reported that he was the 2004 Officer of the Year. Tracey was held in lieu of $2 million bail, charged with nine counts stemming from the two fires..

At least six people have been arrested in connection with nearly 70 fires in the area since the start of 2008.

Update -- Associated Press Report

By DAN ROBRISH
Associated Press Writer

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- A firefighter whose mother was displaced by a December arson in a struggling steel town beset by them was charged Monday with lighting two small trash fires there last week.

The fact Robert Tracey Jr. is a firefighter in Coatesville, a town of 11,000 residents just west of Philadelphia, made the charges particularly difficult for his colleagues, who've been strained by dozens of arsons since the beginning of last year, prosecutors said.

"It's especially disturbing for them that one of their own could be responsible for incidents like this," Chester County District Attorney Joseph Carroll told reporters from his office in West Chester.

Tracey, 37, was identified by witnesses who saw him running from the scene of Friday's fires, which were set a few blocks apart and didn't cause any injuries or significant damage, Carroll said. He was jailed in lieu of $2 million bail.

Attorney S. Lee Ruslander II, who represented Tracey in a previous unrelated case, declined to comment when reached by telephone Monday night.

Tracey is the sixth person arrested in connection with arsons in Coatesville and the surrounding area. He's not charged in any of the other fires, one of which killed a woman, but Carroll said the investigation was continuing.

"I would love to say that this is the end, but it's not," Carroll said. "There are a number of unsolved arsons that likely cannot be tied to the suspects who have already been arrested."

The Friday blazes bring to 22 the number of arsons in the city this year. They came a week after a fire badly damaged two homes.

There have been at least 48 arsons in Coatesville since February 2008 and at least 18 others in nearby communities.

A teenager accused of setting nine of the fires led investigators to several of the scenes and confessed in a police interview, law enforcement officials testified this month.

Roger Leon Barlow Jr., 19, was held for trial after a preliminary hearing on arson and aggravated assault charges in connection with blazes that broke out in Coatesville between Jan. 2 and Feb. 3. The arsons included a massive fire that severely damaged 15 row houses. Damage in that fire alone is estimated at $1.2 million.

A trial date has not been set.

On cross-examination of several witnesses, defense attorney Terrence J. Marlowe pointed out that no one had seen his client set the fires and that no physical evidence pointing to him had been found.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Coatesville/West End Fire Company Official Release on Arrest

By Assistant Chief Robert Pacana - March 23, 2009

For Immediate Release -- On the evening of Monday, March 23, 2009, the officers of the West End Fire Company No. 3 were informed that one of its members, Robert Tracey Jr., had been arrested and charged with 2 counts of arson.

Mr. Tracey had been involved with the Company for nearly 25 years and has held several positions within the Company. Most recently, Mr. Tracey held the position of Assistant Fire Chief, but resigned from that position in February of this year to become a career firefighter with the City of Coatesville Fire Department.

No words are sufficient at conveying the anger, frustration and disappointment that the officers and members of the West End Fire Company feel regarding these allegations. Should Mr. Tracey be found guilty of these charges in a court of law, he will have betrayed not only the trust of Company, but also the sacred trust of the community that he served.

These allegations that a firefighter may have been involved in one or more of the recent arsons that have plagued the City of Coatesville should not overshadow the hard work and dedication of the countless men and woman who risk their lives on a regular basis to ensure the safety of the community.

The West End Fire Company is committed to work collaboratively with law enforcement regarding this ongoing investigation. Mr. Tracey has been suspended from the Company indefinitely pending the outcome of the case.

The leadership of the West End Fire Company will provide more information as it becomes available.

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So Sorry to the Coatsville community , I feel your pain . God Bless you all .
Scott, I agree rather strongly on most of these issues and I too have seen both sides of the coin. Just because you join a Fire Dept. does not mean that you are a firefighter. You have to be dedicated throughout your life to be a true firefighter(Vol or Paid) professionalism is the key word. I have taught for over thirty years and as I used to tell my students "Be the best you can be and if your not going to dedicate yourself get out now"
What a shame! That ahole made his whole dept look like a bunch of firebugs! I hope he gets jailtime with no bail! He flushed his job down the toilet what a idiot
I'm going to add another prospective on this topic. This is not the first time this subject has come up, and unfortunately probably won't be the last. But as I read through the responses, not only here but in other forums, it suddenly occurred to me that WE (myself included) are big hypocrites.

WE post our condolences for the loss of a "brother or sister".

WE are all about the "Brotherhood or Sisterhood".

WE are all part of an "extended family".

WE are so full of S%#)

If the man charged in this crime was actually our family member, would we be doing the name calling which has been done? "lowest form of life on our planet", "That ahole".

Would we go ahead and want him; "nailed to the wall", "burn his ass", "banished"?

"Guilt or not", would we no longer want him around? And what if he is found Not Guilty? Would we then in a public forum apologize for what we have said?

Now not everyone has been so judgmental, or condescending. But lets think about this. IF WE, really are all brothers and sisters of an extended family, who care about the well being of each other. IF WE, really are caring and compassionate which should be one of the reasons we do this job, should we not then reserve judgment until all the facts are known and a conviction is handed down. Would we not come together with the rest of the "family" in an united front, to show the public; if this is proven, we are not all like this. And if it is proven, support our brother to come to terms with what he has done, accept responsibility for his actions, and if needed, get treatment.

Or, are we just used to throwing around the word brotherhood and family so much, that it really has lost all meaning and purpose?
Oldman:
I think in their haste, some posters forget to preface their thoughts on this with "alleged", "the accused" or "if".
Either that; like many, they have already convicted him in the court of public opinion.
His fire department has suspended him indefinitely. Based on the arguments that you use, would you have suspended him or allowed him to continue to serve until the charges were proven or not?
Does suspending him suggest that he is damaged goods in the public's eyes?
Would allowing him to continue to serve create hostility towards the fire department?
I'm not sure if this guy has posted bail.
But, yes; there is a certain hypocrisy. We line up for the funerals, but we run like hell to get away from a firefighter charged with a crime.
When you are dealing with people and ranges of emotions, anything is possible.
TCSS.
Art
Art, Your point is well taken.

I don't know if an "indefinite"suspension would be warranted, but it is common practice for a person to be suspended "pending investigation, or outcome", whether it is fire, EMS, or law enforcement. I think the public has come to expect this. I'm sure there would be a bigger outcry from the public if he was allowed to continue to serve. As the head of that department, I would have to suspend him pending further investigation. At least that has the connotation that he might be reinstated if the charges were not upheld. Indefinite has the sound of finality. I would (and maybe his Chief did) listen to his side of the story, and explain why suspension is necessary.

My point may have gotten lost in my ramblings that if he were my brother, he would know that even though I don't like what he is accused of, I would still be there. If he is convicted and goes to jail, I would still be his brother and do what I could to help him, and that he wouldn't be abandoned. That's what brothers/sisters and family would do.
Oldman:
My guess is that his fire department is doing what they can, under the circumstances, to show their support. They are closest to the current set of circumstances and have a much better view than we do at the moment.
And like you, if I were the chief of that department, I am left with no choice but to suspend him for the time being.
But, since his arrest have hit the local paper and the AP wire service, people have formed their opinions.
At least, that is what we are seeing here.
TCSS.
Art
Arson fire's are alway's a terrible and exhausting thing. But it's really bad when one of our own, who's supposed to be dedicated to serving the community, goes out and set's a fire. While it doesn't make us all look bad, it might put a bit of a dark cloud over the firefighting community. Be strong west end fire company no.3, our prayer's are with you.
and what about the psych testing, wheres the line? depression, bipolar... and the stuff we've been through, in class today we were talking about infant cpr and counseling bc of it, so if they put u on prozac and counseling during a rough patch, you're out? an abusive relationship that results in meds and therapy you're out? We're all real people, with real lifes and real issues... things could show up for any one on a psych eval.
Here is some interesting reaction to Tracey's arrest:
Fire company angered
"No words are sufficient at conveying the anger, frustration and disappointment that the officers and members of the West End Fire Company feel regarding these allegations," said a fire company news release. It said Tracey has been indefinitely suspended.

Asked whether city officials were aware of Tracey's record or deemed the offenses unimportant after doing a background check, Kristin Geiger, a Coatesville spokesperson, declined to comment.

Hmmm.
Guess his old department DOES have a problem with it. Doubt that we will see "Free Robert Tracey" T-shirts any time soon.
Art
What a freakin IDIOT!!!!!!!!!!!

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