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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Question....1. do you believe that an arsonist is mentally ill?

2. if a fellow firefighter stood by his co-worker do you think that person would be considered guilty by association...

This just happened in a volunteer group of firefighters...that I know personally...and the young fire man has screwed up his life forever!
Unless the evidence is overwhelming, he is innocent until proven guilty.
The community may continue to support the fire department as long as there is no perceived cover up.
TCSS.
Art
do you believe that an arsonist is mentally ill?

Not necessarily. There are some which have been diagnosed with a mental illness and insanity. However there are many reasons someone commits arson, and most are not due to illness.

Remember, we are innocent until proven guilty. If a co-worker was charged with a crime, regardless of the nature, and I had no reason to doubt him/her, I would support them unless and until they were convicted. Then I would support them paying their debt to society and hopefully be able to turn their life around.
Although this at first appears to be an issue for a volunteer fire Dept., it has much farther reaching implications. In a time when many departments are cutting back on staffing, events such as these make it even more difficult for us to argue our case in favor of more staffing. How can we hold out against the closure of stations when our own are the ones setting fires? How can we maintain the public trust as an industry when we have arsonists within our ranks? How can we ask our communities for more money for staff, equipment etc. when we are the ones costing millions of dollars in property damage?

Mr Tracey, although charged, and innocent until proven guilty, is already guilty in the court of public opinion, and we owe it to a brother to stand behind him in his hour of need, so let's let the justice system do its thing, and not trash him in the forums.

To the West End Fire Company, continue to provide the very best service you can, and stand tall with pride in a job well done.
that is crazy....why the heck would you think of doin something like that
Yo, man: Why is everone so suprised over this? First thing you are taught as an AI is look at your own and take pics of the people at the crime scene! wasn't it Chief Graner, who is now making big bucks as a public safety consultant bitching about the volunteers, when he was a hot-shot Chief in Rochester, who was involved in some big arson investigation? Ya' gotta' look at your own man. It aint pretty but I would rather loose an illusion than find a false truth!

TJ Jackson
There is not to much that is worse than a FF that Set's fires. It is about the lowest form of life on our plant. If he is found guilty as charged, I hope his sentence is long and hard. Arson is one of the most heinous crimes in my book. And I am a CFI.
the fact that he is one of our own makes this difficult to understand..... he brings disrepute to our brotherhood and should be banished
Unbelieveable. No words can describe the thoughts and anger that his former co-workers and friends and family must be thinking. He needs to be dis-associated with anything public safety immediately. No questions. Judge jury verdict. He is a trusted public official that was seen at the seen of a crime prior to when he should have been there. Guilty or not he is done.
What’s the cost if we don't test?
Lives?
Millions maybe billions in property over time?
Our reputations as a whole?
The Public Trust?

I hate to joke about it but in the movie Roxanne the Fire Chief (Steve Martin) said that calling the fire dept should be a good thing. He didn't want the public saying "for god sakes what every you do don't call the fire dept"
It goes to public trust and reputations, without that how do we fair with Fire & Injury Prevention Programs, Inspections, Funding (there’s the big one)?

I know of two people that were identified by testing as having let’s say, "issues" Both continued in the service. One had a long history of drugs, alcohol, theft and I'm sure other things. He sealed his own fate even though the Chief didn't want to deal with it.
The other while less serious an issue went out on the city dime as a duty disability on psychological issues.
He is not the only one there were others that went out that way in the past.
The key was these were identified (not acted on) during testing for promotions, not when they came on.
I know we are all strapped for cash and this type if issue is one of the first to get axed. But we need to look at the long term ramifications and how wide reaching they could be.

I for one don't want to be the officer telling a spouse or kids about a LODD or injury due to an arson committed by a FF knowing we did nothing to prevent it.
Or to be the Chief that has to explain to the media how we let a guy with pedophile tendencies be on the dept and working with explorers/cadets or school prevention.
Can we prevent or predict all of these? I doubt we can.
Do we prevent all fires with inspections and prevention programs? No.
Do we still do them because they have an impact? Yes we do.

In my earlier post I asked how many depts. paid and volunteer did psychological testing. I was not trying to make this a paid volley thing, I was hoping for some response on a number of depts testing or not.
In this day of volunteer depts. shrinking and fighting to get and retain members I feel we need to make at least an effort to make sure we have stable individuals in these positions. It's not only the arson issue we need to look at.
How many stories do you hear about hot tempered officers and dept members causing issues in the fire house or worse in public? Guys stealing or the two guys near me that were into child molesting and kiddy porn.
There is a lot to think about with these issues. We need to address these as a service and just saying it isn't affordible won't cut it when it hits the fan.
Been there, didn't like it. At all.
that is crazy he sees how u have to fight for ur life everyday to make sure u go home at night and he goes out and does stuff that makes it harder... i know there is firemen out there everyday setting fires, but one day they will get caught.. they go light them then sit at station to be called out and they can be the 1st ones there... it is sad...remember play with fire u will get burnt..
Muriel, I have been around for a long time (Started at 14 as a Jr.) 56 yrs service from jr. to Chief. I have seen investigations prove to be the best method of the question of guilt. I have also seen investigations prove the innocence and frame up of the accused. To those who judge to quickly be careful of what you wish for as you just might get it.

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