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Morgantown requires couches be removed from porches before LSU game

By Sara Wise

MORGANTOWN - City officials will remove furniture and other flammable items from porches and lawns this week in an effort to combat celebratory fires following the nationally televised football game this weekend.

The abatement effort, which covers much of downtown Morgantown and will be effective Thursday through Monday, requires that residents remove any furniture, construction materials, debris and other combustible materials from porches, balconies or lawns.

According to an email sent to students at West Virginia University, "Listed materials found on Thursday morning will be revoked and taken to the city garage, where only the salvageable furniture will be held for five working days."

Residents of properties who choose not to comply will be subject to misdemeanor citations with possible fines ranging from $100 to $1,000.

The Morgantown Fire Department hopes that this weekend's abatement will reduce the number of intentionally lit fires, a problem that Morgantown often deals with during times of celebration.

"We know we're going to have fires, but they aren't going to be as bad," said Fire Department Chief Mark Caravasos.

WVU junior Mark Kookan, who lives in an area covered in the abatement, doesn't believe it will keep people from intentionally lighting fires after the game.

"I just can't see it putting a stop to people's desire to burn," Kookan said. "It might hide things to burn, but I feel that if I see someone burning something, I want to be a part of that."

Kookan believes that students see the celebratory burnings as a rite of passage during a big weekend in Morgantown.

"I know the mindset is there already," Kookan said. "There's nothing they can do to stop it."

Although students primarily inhabit the areas included in the abatement, Caravasos said that the measure was geared to problems, not to people. The order was issued in areas that have seen the most malicious activity in the past.

Abatement hasn't been issued in Morgantown since 2005, when WVU faced rival Virginia Tech. Now, with ESPN College Gameday coming to town for the first time, the city is preparing to prevent riots and intentionally lit fires after Saturday's game against Louisiana State University.

"We're basing this on prior history," said Caravasos. "(Abatement) definitely helps cut down on the size, intensity and number of fires in the area."

In addition to the abatement, anyone caught intentionally lighting fires is subject to felony charges.

"When we catch someone, now they're looking at being arrested and having to go through the circuit court," said Morgantown Chief of Police Ed Preston.


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