Attention all couch-burners, wanna-be couch-burners and other firebugs in Morgantown and vicinity:
You are hereby ordered by common sense and all things sacred to a sense of decorum to stop now.
STOP NOW BEFORE you hurt yourself, someone else or inadvertently set something more valuable than a ratty old couch ablaze -- like maybe someone's house or the whole freaking neighborhood.
Stop now before you wind up in jail on felony charges, a predicament that some foolhardy fire starters arrested in the celebration of Saturday's WVU football win over Texas already may face.
A NEWS STORY out of Morgantown states that 41 fires were set by about 1,000 revelers in and around the city Saturday night and early Sunday morning following the Mountaineers' exciting 48-45 victory over the Longhorns in Austin, Texas.
Of the 35 fires reported by the Morgantown Fire Department, 24 were said to be street fires. Some of those undoubtedly were couches set afire by WVU fandom's small-but-yokel knucklehead faction adhering to the now-too-long celebratory tradition of couch-burning.
It wasn't just couches used as kindling, though.
No, the knuckleheads seem to have graduated to also burning other items in the street these days, bringing the weekend's street fire total to a cool couple-dozen.
Then there was the light pole said to have been knocked down and tossed into one of the pyres.
FOR GOOD MEASURE, the fools' parade apparently started an additional 11 Dumpster fires in Morgantown. Another six fire calls were answered among several other local agencies.
The mayhem reportedly included rocks, bottles and other projectiles hurled at law-enforcement personnel trying to control the crowd, and about 50 baton-wielding police in gas masks and body armor using pepper spray and tear gas to prevent cars from being turned over.
At least 10 people reportedly were arrested, five with the serious charge of malicious burning.
AS A WVU FAN, I find this embarrassing and disturbing.
I'm no prude when it comes to celebrating a big sports win, mind you, but 41 fires in one night?
Knocking down a light pole?
Trying to flip cars?
Throwing rocks at emergency responders?
What happened to drinking some beers and singing karaoke?
I ASK THOSE INVOLVED, IS THIS the kind of attention you want drawn to yourself and to WVU?
Is this the signature, the identity, you want applied to Mountaineer fans, or do you not care?
More importantly, is arson the kind of legal attention you want?
What about the cost of sending fire and police equipment to such senseless events at a time when city and county budgets are strapped?
We all can be thankful that this time, no one was reported seriously hurt in the rock and bottle-throwing or in the fire-creation and extinguishing.
What about next time, if and when there is one?
I KNOW KIDS WILL BE KIDS and all that, but this situation has grown far beyond the prank, public nuisance stage.
It has transcended mere hard-partying in the name of WVU's sports successes into a dangerous public hazard.
Answer me this:
What if a firefighter, a paramedic or a police officer was critically injured in the melee or in a crash hurrying to the scene?
What if someone among the perpetrators' -- perhaps even a casual observer's -- clothes caught fire?
What if a Dumpster or a street fire caused a blaze at a nearby home or business that spread to other homes or businesses in a town where buildings often are within a few feet of each other?
What if a car got tipped over and it rolled on someone who couldn't get out of the way?
Think any of this couldn't happen?
Think if any of it did, to any degree, that it wouldn't earn the person or persons responsible more than a little time in the Graybar Hilton?
DON'T KNOW ABOUT YOU, but I wouldn't want to be one of the people arrested in all of this.
Judging from initial reports, the most recent flammable go-round has the university hierarchy and Morgantown-area officials ready to fight fire with fire in the form of stiffer punishment and something resembling zero tolerance.
Steps previously taken to discourage such havoc evidently have failed and the powers-that-be now seem to be seeing red.
For those who have remained bent on keeping the torching tradition, a public backlash toward such stupidity not only was bound to happen, it was inevitable.
THERE WAS A SHORT SPAN OF TIME, say about 20 years ago, that the couch-burning meme was, to an extent, mildly amusing.
It's not funny anymore.
It's not even cute.
It's pathetic now -- an overdone, hackneyed, time-worn concept that has become nothing more than a sad-yet-risky cliche.
So isn't now a good time to stop all of this idiocy, before something horrible happens?
You know the adage that people who play with fire end up getting burned?
WVU has turned a new page with its entrance into the Big 12 Conference.
Why not leave leave the flame-throwing chapter behind as well?