Morgantown Responds to Street Fires Following WVU Win - WBOY.com: Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Morgantown Responds to Street Fires Following WVU Win

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Police work to clear high street following Saturday's win at Texas Police work to clear high street following Saturday's win at Texas
MORGANTOWN -

Last Saturday, the Mountaineers recorded another Big 12 win against the University of Texas. Now 2-0 in Big 12 play, students and fans might be 0-2 in celebrating them.

"It's an embarrassment, it's an embarrassment to the city, it's majorly embarrassing to West Virginia University, and to the state," said Morgantown Mayor Jim Manilla.

The situation in Morgantown after the game Saturday could easily be summed up as scary. The Morgantown Fire Department said 35 fires were set, and five people were arrested on arson-related charges.

Chief Ed Preston said photos and videos posted online and taken by police could lead to further arrests. Chief Preston also said people could face charges from malicious burning, a misdemeanor, through third degree arson, a felony carrying up to three years of jail time.

"It's more than just setting some fires, it's more than just after sports celebration. It's about criminal behavior," Preston said.

Andrew Thompson of Centerville, VA, David Joseph Costa of Germantown, MD, Robert F. Comorosky of Loveland, OH, Alexander Zuo of Malverin, PA and Brett Zachary Stevens of Highland, MD have been arrested. None have West Virginia addresses, and four are students. Mayor Manilla said expulsion from the university should be just the beginning.

"Anyone brought in needs to be fined at the max, and if it's arson, it's arson and they are criminals. And I think that is the sum of the ideas for the short term," Manilla said.

The problems with burnings in the city have been noted for years. Recently, the city and university have worked together in spreading education to end this behavior. WVU said it feels progress has been made, but many people in its community are very disappointed.

"We've worked hard on this issue with all of our administration, with the community, with city officials and especially with our students. I think they have worked hard as well to convey to those involved in this kind of conduct is not safe, and really irresponsible," said Ken Gray, vice president of Student Affairs.

Police and fire crews were called in from surrounding communities to help control the large crowds and number of fires. Police dressed in riot gear and used pepper spray, and several officers were injured.

"We cannot allow this type of behavior to go on, we cannot allow it to grow," said Chief Preston. "We cannot allow people to not be held accountable for taking these kinds of actions, and we will do everything in our power, under the law in our, to ensure we make this town, this area, and this university as safe as we can."

Mayor Manilla said the city will look for answers. He said the city is in need of more first responders and said a $20 tuition fee, earmarked for more police and fire fighters, could bring the city nearly $1.8 million.