29 Fires Intentionally Started Near West Virginia University, 5 People Arrested

MORGANTOWN, West Virginia (Reuters) - Five people were arrested on Monday in connection with 29 fires intentionally set over the weekend in Morgantown, West Virginia, authorities said.

The Morgantown Fire Department responded to 18 street fires and 11 dumpster fires between Thursday and Monday morning, Captain Ken Tennant said.

Although Morgantown is home to West Virginia University, known for celebrating football victories by setting couches on fire, investigators said they did not think the blazes were connected to any particular event.

"This past weekend was pretty much random," said Tennant. "There were no celebrations going on this weekend. There were no large gatherings or anything."

According to The Daily Athenaeum, the student newspaper, WVU students set 22 fires around campus to celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden last week.

Five people were charged with malicious burning in connection with the recent fires, Tennant said. It was not immediately known if any of them was a WVU student.

According to the Morgantown Fire Department, the city led the nation in intentional street fires between 1997 and 2003 with 1,129 incidents.

The city, located in the northeastern corner of the state near the Pennsylvania and Maryland borders, has documented 93 fires so far this year, Tennant said.

"This is really bad, considering that we're only halfway through the year," he said. "We have the fall semester to deal with."

(Reporting by Steven Allen Adams, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Greg McCune)

Copyright 2010 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.

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