Couch burning

People usually watch a bonfire from the sidelines, but at couch burnings they jump right in. “Last time, some of our friends were jumping over or sitting on to see how long they could stay on the couch; it was hilarious,” said Amanda Neeb, who holds couch-burning parties every year in her Stratford, Ont., backyard. “It’s quite the high, seeing something go up in flames and watching it burn. I love it.”

Singeing body hair is also a problem for those who veer too close. Andrew Milauskas, an 18-year-old student at West Virginia University, insists that watching the fire is simply not enough. “My favourite part is jumping over the fire; all the hairs on my legs get burned off, eyelashes, eyebrows gone,” he said. “I love campfire and playing with fire. It’s the sense of danger, living life on the edge.”

Sounds like an education for budding arsonists don’t it?

Over the past month, students across Canada and the United States who have polished off their papers and wrapped up their exams have begun participating in a growing springtime ritual: couch-burning parties. …

The school best known for couch burning is West Virginia University in Morgantown, which has also been ranked in the annual Princeton Review as the top party school of 2008. The student motto of WVU is: “Where greatness is learned.” Students have added, “and where couches are burned.” …

But now the parties are not just for sports buffs. Instead of happening on campus, they take place in rural backyards and forests. They’re almost like a bonfire, but many say couch burning is more entertaining.

“The fire is way more intense,” said Paul Wade, 27, from Burlington, Ont., who attended couch-burning parties every spring while studying at Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S. “The most interesting thing is how hyped everyone gets when burning a couch. It seems like the animal comes out when it’s lit on fire.”

Those crazy guys. And environmentalists they are not. Some even let their kiddies watch! [but they probably don’t smoke in their car with them right?]

Of course, couch burning has its downfalls, too. According to Charles Jia, a chemistry professor at the University of Toronto, the act has environmental repercussions. “Burning furniture will generate more toxic emissions than burning pure wood,” he said. “Lots of furniture is made of plastic and foam parts. If you burn it under the rate of high temperature, some vapours become toxic to your health. It’s not environmentally friendly, that’s for sure.”

And it’s illegal, but perhaps that is just one of those educational laws.

Though a few couch burners have received noise complaints for their parties, none have been arrested. According to Mr. Fetty, in the United States, couch burning is considered burning garbage and is illegal.

Couch burning is also illegal in Canada, said Jim Lee, an Ottawa firefighter and assistant to the general president of the International Association of Fire Fighters. “It’s very dangerous,” he said. “When we used to celebrate that school is out, we’d go grab a beer. Can’t they find anything else to do? Can’t they go cow tipping or something?” [link to source]

Cow tipping. Ha, ha.

Speaking of fires, perhaps you can help catch an arsonist.

You could cash in on $2,000 for helping police catch arsonists at work in New Minas.

Arthur Watkins, chairman of Crimestoppers in the Annapolis Valley, calls the recent rash of fires an emergency.

Speaking at a press conference May 26, Watkins said an anonymous tip made to Crimestoppers can not lead to retaliation.

“You do not have to go to court or talk to police. No questions are asked,” he said. The Crimestoppers number is 1-8000-222-8477.

Deputy Fire Marshall Derwin Swinemar called on residents of the village to take responsibility for fire safety, and use any avenue to report suspicious activity.

There have been 10 cases of arson in the community this year. New Minas Fire Chief Jim Redmond added, last year, there were 25 suspicious fires and four during the fall of 2006.

We’ll bet its a college kid or two (and not a local school) since most fires seem to be started between university terms.

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