Morgantown officials send warnings to WVU celebrators

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - 4:07pm

MORGANTOWN, Wv -- Morgantown fire officials are trying to prevent the spectacle of nationally televised street fires after a big football game Saturday.

Fire marshals posted nearly 700 notices on Monday in three historically problematic neighborhoods.

No. 16 WVU meets No. 2 LSU in a prime time game that ESPN is airing live. Both teams are 3-0, and win or lose, the potential for revelry is high.

"We've got two undefeated teams," said Morgantown Fire Chief Mark Caravasos. "We've got ESPN GameDay coming. The eyes of the nation are going to be on us."

WVU students have a longstanding tradition of setting street and trash bin fires to celebrate athletic victories and other events, and the city has been trying to end the practice for years. This year, offenders face misdemeanor citations and fines of $100 to $1,000.

Last month, it announced it will work with law enforcement to begin filing felony charges against people caught setting street and trash bin fires. Convictions under the state arson code could mean one to three years in prison, depending on the severity of the charge.

Until now, the city has relied on its misdemeanor malicious burning ordinance to punish those who start hundreds of potentially dangerous bonfires each year. Conviction carries a mandatory $1,000 fine, but fire and police officials said that wasn't enough of a deterrent.

Fire Marshal Ken Tennant said the furniture-removal order is in effect until 8 a.m. Sept. 26.

Any indoor furniture, trash, construction debris and other combustible material that remains outdoors Thursday will be removed and taken to a city garage, where it will be held for five days, Tennant said.

WVU student Beau Bates said he'll probably move the plaid couch on his porch to a friend's house for the weekend, but he doubts the fire department's orders will stop the fires.

"Even if they do put stuff inside, people are crazy," he said. "They're going to bring them out anyway."
 

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