Following Arrest, Pattern Appears to Emerge in Coatesville Arsons
Updated: 03-25-2009 02:01:44 PM
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KATHLEEN BRADY SHEA, DERRICK NUNNALLY and ANTHONY R. WOOD
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Robert F. Tracey Jr., 37, was being held at Chester County Prison after failing to post $2 million bail pending a Monday hearing.
Two days before Christmas, his mother, Sharon Tracey, was one of several residents displaced when an arsonist struck her home in the first block of Gap Road.
A month later, her childhood home in the 200 block of Valley Road was targeted, according to the current occupants. That fire was quickly extinguished, they said, but the family just managed to escape the flames in a second fire on March 14, said Angel Ortega, one of the residents.
More than a year earlier, on Feb. 4, a home on Union Avenue that became Coatesville's first arson on a task-force list also had a connection to Sharon Tracey, according to Linda Edmondson, who lives at that address. Edmondson said a portion of the building set on fire once housed an apartment that the firefighter's mother occupied.
Sharon Tracey yesterday declined to comment.
Robert Tracey has not been identified as a suspect in those fires, which are all under investigation by the Chester County Arson Task Force.
Yesterday, he was described by neighbors and investigators as a person with problems. They also said he had been involved in firefighting since he was 12 and once posed in his fire gear for a high school yearbook portrait. He has held several positions in Coatesville's West End Fire Company over nearly 25 years, according to the company.
A woman who answered the door at Tracey's home yesterday declined to comment.
"There will be no release of information concerning the further investigation of Robert Tracey at this time," said John Hageman, a spokesman for the task force.
The fires connected to Tracey took place Friday and caused no injuries. Since February 2008, federal investigators have recorded 70 arsons. Tracey is the seventh suspect taken into custody in connection with the Coatesville-area arsons. The suspects have been linked to 24 of the 70 fires.
Last month, the city hired Tracey, former captain of volunteers at the West End Fire Company, as a part-time firefighter.
In March 2007, Council unanimously named him an "assistant fire chief" of the West End company after determining he was not qualified to become "deputy fire chief."
That same month, Tracey pleaded guilty to a bad-checks charge and received a sentence of 12 months' probation, according to court records.
Records also show citations for driving an unregistered vehicle and disregarding a traffic-control device as well as two citations for operating a vehicle without a valid inspection, in 2002 and 2005.
Court records also show that Tracey failed to pay the $67,945 mortgage on a property he purchased in the 200 block of Madison Street, a street that has experienced five arsons in the last 13 months.
After the bank foreclosed in November 2003, it had to force eviction proceedings because Tracey still occupied the premises, court records showed.
S. Lee Ruslander, Tracey's attorney, did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
Tracey relinquished his assistant fire chief title when he was awarded the part-time paid position last month.
"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.
A human-resources worker at the Anne Arundel County Fire Department in Maryland said Tracey was terminated from its department; however, she declined to give dates, referring the matter to a spokesman, Battalion Chief Matt Tobia. He said that Tracey worked for his department from April 2006 until April 2007 but that he could not discuss Tracey's departure.
Some neighbors of Tracey's most recent address reacted incredulously to his arrest.
But other neighbors, including Kathryn Duca, 72, said they had their doubts about Tracey's behavior.
Harold Guest Jr., 36, recalled that Tracey, a classmate in the 1991 class at Coatesville Area Senior High School, was a teenage fire volunteer and even posed in his firefighting gear for a yearbook portrait in his senior year.
Eric Powell, 43, a volunteer firefighter for 10 years who had worked with Tracey, said he had questioned his character but added, "He was a hell of a firefighter."[/PHP]
Is it me or is anyone just amazed how this yo-yo got hired the same month he pled to writing bad checks?? I started my career in Pennsylvania; I know PSP is a well respected and very capable law enforcement agency. How can you be in a position of public trust and not have a background check done? How can you not utilize such a resource as PSP to determine what type of people are representing you?
My department not only does a background check, we run a credit check. I know someone is going to blast me saying what does a credit check have to do with firefighting, but it will give an insight to what kind of person you are. I admit itís not perfect, but most of the time itís usually pretty close to how responsible you are.
My favorite part of this article is ďhe was not qualified to be deputy chief; but he was qualified to be assistant chief??? WTF??
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Thread: And they hired this guy??????
03-25-2009, 07:54 PM #1
And they hired this guy??????
Last edited by jack61sgfd; 03-25-2009 at 08:05 PM.Shut the nozzle stupid, thats' smoke not fire!
03-25-2009, 08:00 PM #2
- Join Date
- Jan 2003
Could someone give the Cliffs Notes version? I don't have the energy to work through that formatting.
03-25-2009, 08:05 PM #3
Is that better? I hit the wrong button when I posted it.
my bad!!Shut the nozzle stupid, thats' smoke not fire!
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