MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Did you know that from 2008-2012, Morgantown reported the second highest number of dumpster fires causing property damage in the country, more than cities such as Los Angeles, San Antonio or Philadelphia? (Columbus, Ohio is first).
Recklessness and lawlessness are not the best ways to celebrate our victories. The City of Morgantown will soon have a new tool in addition to the education and public awareness campaigns. According to WV MetroNews, the state Home Rule Board has approved the city's proposal to grant the Morgantown City Fire Marshal the authority to make arrests in certain situations.
Morgantown is a great and vibrant community, but the street fires which endanger people and property are inexcusable. In October of last year, crowds set fires, threw bottles, and tried to flip vehicles in several Morgantown neighborhoods after a WVU football victory. Property owners in the downtown university campus area have not only suffered from fire, smoke, and water damage to their property, but also increased insurance rates, and loss of property value due to the expectation that riots and fires will continue to bedevil this sector of Morgantown after every football game.
The proposal would grant the city fire marshal to have arrests powers to enforce the Fire Prevention Code. Specifically, the Fire Marshals can arrest any individual disobeying lawful orders at the scene of a fire and any individual who violates the Fire Prevention Code prohibitions against malicious burning, obstructing a fire marshal, or failure to obey orders. This proposal will now go back to city council for final approval.
An additional 175 hours of training in law enforcement is required for the marshals to make arrests. Morgantown Fire Marshal Tennant says they have already undergone the training this summer to prepare for the proposal's approval.
Morgantown City Council will likely take up the issue next month, appropriately during Fire Safety Awareness Month and football season. Let's hope our best and brightest can exhibit their creativity and superior mental powers this year to find a constructive new way to celebrate, in contrast to the exceedingly destructive cow who is credited for starting the Great Chicago Fire which the Fire Safety Month commemorates.
WV MetroNews: Fire marshal arrest powers: solution to Morgantown dumpster fires, September 15, 2015.
National Fire Protection Association: Fire Safety Awareness Week