Woman charged with setting fires in Upper Darby

Amanda Gessner allegedly set seven fires.
Amanda Gessner allegedly set seven fires.
Posted: February 11, 2009

A 19-year-old Upper Darby woman who was observed on a store surveillance camera singing, "The fire company is going to be mad at me," was arrested and charged with setting seven fires in the township early yesterday.

Amanda Gessner of the 300 block of Childs Avenue was charged with arson, causing or risking catastrophe, criminal mischief, and related charges.

Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood said he did not believe Gessner was involved in any of the nearly two dozen arsons that have plagued the Coatesville area.

Gessner was seen at previous fire scenes taking pictures with her cell phone, Upper Darby Deputy Fire Chief John Hicks said. A few weeks ago, she gave firefighters a "hard time" at the Garrettford Station on Edmonds Avenue, Hicks said.

"She enjoyed seeing fire engines, enjoyed seeing fires, and enjoyed taking pictures of fires," Hicks said.

In investigating yesterday's blazes, Gessner's "name came up very early," Chitwood said. He said she was known to hang out at a Wawa store at Burmont and Garrett Roads. Police went there and, on video, observed her buying coffee and cigarettes and singing the song.

Gessner fits "the profile of what a pyromaniac would be," Chitwood said, adding that she set all the fires with a cigarette lighter.

All the fires were within a short distance of where Gessner lives, police said. Chitwood said they believe Gessner acted alone. He said she does not have a criminal history, is unemployed, and lives with her parents.

At 3:05 a.m., township fire and police responded to a brush fire at Edmonds Avenue and Jones Street in the area of a trolley passenger shelter.

At 4:43 a.m., the most serious of the fires was reported at a home on Blanchard Road. A smoke detector awoke a family with four children between the ages of 6 and 13. The fire was set in lumber stored near a side of the home.

By the time firefighters arrived, the blaze had spread to the siding and side wall of the residence, causing significant damage, officials said.

At 5:18 a.m., a fire was reported in mulch by a rear porch on the 4000 block of Vernon Road. Also at 5:18, a Dumpster fire was reported in the rear of a day-care center in the 300 block of Childs Avenue.

Another report came at 5:34 a.m. for a trash fire in the 4000 block of Lasher Road. Two minutes later, there was a report of two trash fires in the 4000 block of Ellendale Road. Firefighters also found two trash fires on the 4000 block of Lasher Road.

When investigators questioned Gessner, she allegedly admitted setting the fires. She also admitted to calling in a false alarm on Nov. 18 at the Drexel House Deli, police said.


Contact staff writer Mari A. Schaefer at 610-892-9149 or mschaefer@phillynews.com.

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