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.