WSAZ | Charleston, West Virginia | News

UPDATE: Fire Prevention a Success at WVU

By: Brooks Jarosz Email
By: Brooks Jarosz Email

UPDATE: Sunday 9/25/11 @ 7:00 p.m.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- On the heels of a major football loss, safety officials are declaring success and the name of the game, they say, is prevention.

Police and fire officials in Morgantown took every precaution possible to prevent parties from getting out of hand.

A citywide ban was issued last week, instructing students and neighbors to remove all furniture and flammable items from porches and around homes.

Cars were towed by the dozens off major party streets like Grant Avenue and Beverly Street Saturday night before the WVU football game against LSU.

Police say it's to prevent notorious couch fires and keep students safe.

College fans filled the streets but not in their usual numbers after a depressing loss.

"We're still going to go out here and try to have some fun," student Corey Utz said. "Either way, you can't win them all."

Local and state police and fire officials patrolled in vehicles, on foot and undercover ready to stop any fires or fights from starting.

"It's inevitable, it's WVU," student Kelly Boleware said. "It's going to happen regardless of what they do."

State fire marshals say the preparations were a huge success with overall just five small fires.

Two of those were furniture fires, two were started in dumpsters and one was a newspaper fire, however, all were quickly put out shortly after being started. One student was arrested for trying to start one.

"There was an almost fire right down there on that street but that's about it," Boleware said. "Fire marshals stopped it right before it got started."

Students say there's a reason for that low number.

"Overall, we're just pretty depressed," student Andrew Leonzo said. "And all the hype and then we just got shut down."

It's now a felony if you're caught trying to start a street fire.

"Hopefully, we're just going to try to keep it safe tonight," Utz said.

Safety was put in place long before the game was over as trucks continued driving up and down neighborhood streets looking for flammable materials like furniture.

Cars were towed by the dozens on streets known for getting rowdy.

The result Saturday night into Sunday morning was mainly college kids hanging out and still holding on to their Mountaineer pride.

Fire marshals say this is the third time they've assisted the Morgantown Police to prevent fires. Eight were on the streets.

They will be back for other major events in Morgantown including Halloween.



ORIGINAL STORY: 9/22/11
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Preventing the chairs, mattresses and couches from going up in flames, firefighters in Morgantown are taking precautions for this weekends West Virginia University football game when the Moutainteers take on LSU.

Morgantown residents could face a $1,000 fine if any other furniture is found outside any homes or rental properties.

Everyone had until 8 a.m. Thursday to clear their porches or get a knock on the door.

"I think it's for everybody's well being everybody's safety," student Ryan Gillespe said. "It's also a tradition but it's also for everybody's well being, just trying to keep students safe."

Over the years, WVU has earned a reputation for setting couches and other things on fire on game night.

Fire crews are pushing to prevent the spectacle of street fires, especially with ESPN featuring the WVU game on its College Game Day show.

The city ordered everyone to remove all furniture and flammable materials from their yards and porches.

Nearly 700 notices were posted in problem neighborhoods.

Police and fire officials say if they didn't clear everything by Thursday evening, city crews will start hauling it away by the truckload.

"I mean they've been pretty understandable they're out here trying to work with people," student Andrew Ferguson said. "They're not out here just trying to take everyone's stuff just for the sake of it."

For people who weren't home Thursday afternoon, crews were seen loading up dump trucks full of old furniture and trash.

"They gave everyone fair warning to get stuff of everyone's porches here on Grant Street," Ferguson said. "It's understandable they don't want fires going on everywhere."

Last weekend, two people were charged with setting street fires following the WVU game.

"We're now able to charge some of the offenders with felonies," Morgantown Fire Chief Mark Caravasos said. "That's a step up of what we've been able to charge in the past."

The fire marshal's office says someone set a couch on fire shortly before midnight Saturday.

A second fire was set at the same location just a couple of hours later.

Both fires were started after the Mountaineers beat Maryland.


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