Six homes now sit abandoned in the 400 block of Bickley Place in Chester, their doors kicked in and windows boarded up, and residents of the rowhouse street say they are living in a state of fear.

Dozens of them talked quietly among themselves Wednesday about the "suspicious" fires at three rowhouses.

The fires have occurred every other night since Friday; three other houses have suffered smoke and water damage. The six now-vacant homes constitute about a quarter of the block.

Fire Commissioner James Johnson said Wednesday that while no arson determination had been made, the fires were suspicious. Mayor John Linder said preliminary reports indicate the fires "appear intentional."

"Looking at the fact that there are three fires along the same block," Linder said, "it seems there is more to it than an accidental thing."

No injuries have been reported, but officials said 28 people have been displaced.

Residents along the modest block, where many have lived for decades and where homes have been passed down through generations, are on edge. Some said they are tasked with a heavy decision: whether to stay or go.

Yolonda Colon, a resident who has lived on the block for two years, noted that no one was inside the houses that were targeted. The fires on Friday and Sunday nights occurred in vacant houses. No one was home in the third house, where fire broke out about 10 p.m. Tuesday.

Colon said she doesn't want to leave, and she wants to maintain normality for her children and grandchildren who live with her.

But yet, she said, she doesn't feel safe staying.

"We can't live like this - in fear," she said. "And where are we going to go? We have no money."

Chester, Delaware County's only city, is one of the state's most violent and impoverished communities. About one-third of residents live below the poverty line. In 2014, 27 incidents of arson were documented by the Pennsylvania State Police.

Since Friday, the Red Cross' Disaster Action Team has provided the seven displaced families - whose possessions were destroyed - with food and clothing.

In the midst of confusion and anxieties, residents said kindness has emerged: Children have returned home to protect elderly parents. Neighbors have come to stay with families with young children.

"These are good people, sincere people," said Santiago Garcia, whose mother has lived on the block for 50 years. "Which is why it doesn't make sense that one of us ... would do this."

Police Commissioner Joseph Bail said he was not aware of any recent disputes among residents on the block.

The county's estimated market value for each home is about $20,000. Many residents do not have home insurance, residents said.

Officials said Chester police would beef up patrols on the block and that a better lighting system will be installed on the street.

"Just because people don't see police officers doesn't mean they're not here," Bail said.

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