Santa Barbara County Supervisor Joan Hartmann urged her Isla Vista constituents Tuesday to refrain from burning furniture and setting off fireworks as they did in the streets for hours on Monday night during the sprawling blackout caused by the Thomas Fire in Ventura. “Every minute that public safety personnel have to spend putting out your avoidable fires is a minute wasted on the County’s ability to contribute to the regional disaster response,” she wrote in a mass email.
According to UCSB student paper The Daily Nexus, thousands of students rushed to the streets to burn two couches, a mattress, and one dumpster. Music played while fireworks were set off. Much of the event was caught on a video shared by the Nexus.
Along the 101 near Faria and Solimar, firefighters are working to contain the Thomas Fire to the northeast side of the highway as best they can. Meanwhile, residents under a mandatory evacuation order pack their cars and leave their homes in La Conchita.
Couch burning has a long history in Isla Vista. For years the activity was popular when college students moved out of their apartments at the end of the academic year in June. Ramped-up law enforcement and campaigns from the university nearly eradicated the tradition in 2015. District Attorney Joyce Dudley said in an email that her office “familiarized [people] with potential penalties” of arson charges.
Jonathan Abboud, interim general manager at the I.V. Community Services District, issued a press release denouncing the behavior. The district “urges residents to be cognizant of the importance of community safety and the wellbeing of their neighbors,” he wrote.