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WVU fires a bad tradition

Seven fires reported after LSU game

By Lydia Nuzum

Published: Monday, September 26, 2011

The Morgantown Fire Department responded to seven malicious fires following the West Virginia University football game against LSU Saturday.

The Fire Department responded to six street fires and one dumpster fire during the hours following the game, but Fire Marshall Captain Ken Tennant said the number was lower than anticipated.

“Whether the team won or lost we were ready and expecting fires,” Tennant said. “We’ve had over 150 fires set after a game, and we’ve had games with no fires. For a high-profile game, I would say it was a very small number.”

One person was also arrested during the weekend for malicious burning.

Keith Ryder of Fairfield, Pa., was arrested in connection with a mattress fire on the 300 block of Grant Street.

Tennant said Ryder is not a WVU student.

During a furniture abatement order issued by the fire department, 37 truckloads of furniture and other combustible items were removed before the weekend.

The order required residents in certain sectors of downtown Morgantown to remove furniture from their porches and exterior property or risk having it removed by local law enforcement.

“It removed a lot of combustibles, and the opportunity was lessened for starting fires,” Tennant said.

Furniture collected by the city will be disposed of if not retrieved from the city garage by Thursday Sept. 29, Tennant said.

Tennant also mentioned that other programs and initiatives through the University are continuing to help prevent malicious fires.

“I think that the prevention efforts that have been put forth by the city, WVU and the neighborhood organization Sunnyside Up have led to a decrease in the number of fires,” Tennant said. “All of those things had a contributing factor, and we hope that we’ve turned a corner.”

Sunnyside Up is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the Sunnyside neighborhood and is currently promoting a “Learn Not to Burn” campaign to discourage students and WVU fans from starting intentional fires.

The campaign distributes magnets, banners, flyers, posters and door hangers to promote the initiative, and it has led to the installation of security cameras and warning signs in Sunnyside.

More than 400 people have been cited for malicious burning in Morgantown since 1997, and the city leads the nation in the number of intentional fires reported each year.

Tennant said he hopes the University and all WVU sports fans will continue to maintain an enthusiastic Mountaineer pride, while at the same time doing their part to keep a safe game day atmosphere.

“Hopefully people will find other avenues of celebration other than burning things in the middle of the street,” he said.


Fire marshals posted nearly 700 notices in problem neighborhoods before the game and threatened citations from $100-$1,000.

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