WVU cracks down on couch burning

Sept. 2, 2011 at 3:17 PM

MORGANTOWN, W.Va., Sept. 2 (UPI) -- Students at West Virginia University who engage in the traditional couch-burnings to celebrate big football games could face arson charges, officials say.

Morgantown officials say they have decided this year to use the state fire code, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

In the past, students who set couches on fire or started fires in Dumpsters -- another WVU tradition -- were prosecuted under local ordinances with the stiffest penalty a $1,000 fine. A third-degree arson conviction means a felony record and possibly prison time.

T-shirts for sale in Morgantown stores celebrate the tradition: "WVU: Where greatness is learned and couches are burned." Generations of students have started fires to mark football wins or losses.

Fire officials say the tradition became a bit much during a period between 1988 and 1993 when WVU's football team had a five-year winning streak.

"It went from a couple of fires a year into a hundred fires a year," Fire Capt. Ken Tennant said. "Until after that they were no longer associated with a sporting event, they were just at any time."

Students celebrated the killing of Osama bin Laden by setting 20 fires, including one that caused a Dumpster explosion. Then they set more the next weekend.

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