2009-03-19 / Local & State

Latest Arson Reignites Fear In Pa. Town

COATESVILLE, Pa. (AP) - The latest deliberately set fire in Coatesville has reignited the fears of residents of the arson-plagued Philadelphia suburb who had begun to breathe easier following the arrest of two suspects.

The blaze - the 20th of this year - badly damaged two homes at around 1:30 a.m. Saturday in the distressed steel town of about 11,000 residents. It was the first arson in almost three weeks - the last occurring Feb. 22 in a school bus yard outside the city.

The latest fire broke out a day after the preliminary hearing for a man accused of setting blazes between Jan. 2 and Feb. 3, including a massive fire that severely damaged 15 row homes. Roger Leon Barlow Jr., 19, of Downington, was held for trial on charges of arson and aggravated assault. He has pleaded not guilty.

Authorities last month also announced charges against another 19-year-old man in connection with the arsons.

"After those arrests, there weren't any more arsons, and my fears did kind of ease up," said Diane Mason, who lives three houses away from the latest blaze. "Then last night - it seems like a nightmare, like it's started all over again."

"That comfort zone's back on red alert - after it had just gone down to orange," resident Mike Zuratt said.

Some residents say the rash of fires has made them think hard about whether they want to stay.

"We're at the point of deciding whether we will or we won't move," said Mario Santiago, who has been in Coatesville for seven years and lives a block from the latest fire. "It's not just the arsons, although that's part of it. It's many things. It's the juvenile delinquency."

There have been at least 46 arsons since February 2008 in Coatesville, including a December blaze that killed an 83-yearold woman. Three people were arrested in connection with her death and other arsons.

Coatesville is about 35 miles west of Philadelphia. At least 18 other arsons in nearby communities have been reported during the same period.

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