Frankford woman charged with setting 10 fires

Noelle Bilbrough: All fires set within a 1-mile radius.
Noelle Bilbrough: All fires set within a 1-mile radius.
Posted: May 25, 2012

HER Neighbors instantly recognized the Frankford woman accused of setting 10 fires in the community in recent weeks.

“That’s Noelle,” gasped one 30-year resident of the area, who gave her name only as Toni, when she saw a mugshot of Noelle Bilbrough, 35.

Bilbrough was arrested Tuesday and charged Wednesday in a string of alleged arsons that began in mid-April and occurred up until the day of her arrest, when police say she lit a fire near Frankford Avenue and Unity Street.

“I wouldn’t expect that out of anybody,” Toni said, adding that a house around the corner from hers burned two weeks ago. “I just don’t understand it. It makes no sense.”

Bilbrough, of Pratt Street near Frankford Avenue, was charged with several counts of arson, reckless endangerment, causing catastrophe and related offenses for the 10 fires, all set within a mile radius of each other.

She’s accused of igniting two fast-moving blazes on Sunday — one that destroyed three rowhouses on Kinsey Street near Hedge in the morning and another that reduced an abandoned building on nearby Paul Street to charred rubble. Five residents were displaced by the Kinsey Street fire, according to the American Red Cross.

“It’s getting real, real bad,” said Perry Leach, 36, who grew up in Frankford, as he surveyed the burned-out houses on Kinsey Street, the smell of smoke still lingering on the block. “I’m right around the corner. I was hoping she wasn’t gonna do that to my house. I got kids.”

Leach and other neighbors said they’re relieved that police tracked Bilbrough down.

Vanessa Reyes, 46, whose house was damaged in one of the fires, said she recognized Bilbrough from seeing her walk around the neighborhood.

“I don’t believe it,” Reyes said, her storm door, which was damaged during the fire, leaning against a wall in her living room. “Ten fires!”

Court records show that this isn’t Bilbrough’s first brush with the law. She’s been arrested several times on prostitution charges dating back to 2006.

According to documents, police had her in custody earlier this month — in the thick of the string of alleged arsons — after she was arrested on prostitution charges May 2.

She was released after posting 10 percent of $1,000 bail. She’s set for a hearing Wednesday on the arson charges.

Contact Morgan Zalot at 215-854-5928 or zalotm@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @morganzalot. Read her blog PhillyConfidential.com.

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