After cleaning up 83 burned couches within a one-month period last summer, local law enforcement is encouraging Isla Vista residents to give their old furniture away.

An increase in couch burnings – prosecutable as a felony offense – over the past month has the Isla Vista Foot Patrol and county officials concerned about potential burnings in coming weeks. IVFP Lieutenant Russ Birchim said that while the number of couch burnings has been substantially lower recently than in past years, the number of couch burnings typically increases at the end of Spring quarter when students move out.

“In the last three weeks, we have had an average of three reported burnings a week,” Birchim said. “We see this type of couch burning ritual usually because it is the end of finals and students have a lack of stress and responsibility.”

According to Birchim, the district attorney is recommending a felony charge, with 200 community service hours followed by two years probation for convicted offenders.

“This would be instead of the usual fine that is required and that parents end up paying anyway,” Birchim said. “If we catch someone even trying to start a fire, we arrest them for a felony automatically.”

Brad Spencer, from the county’s Solid Wastes and Utilities division, said there were 83 occurrences of couch and dumpster burnings in I.V. between June 13 and July 1 last year. The county pays an estimated $400 to $700 per arson because of the manpower it takes to deal with a fire.

“When you have as many arsons as they did last year, the costs add up,” Spencer said.

Mark Chaconas, executive assistant to 3rd District Supervisor Gail Marshall, said suspects can be fined for a violation of the Air Pollution Control District policy in addition to the felony charge.

“We’re taking these a lot more seriously now,” Chaconas said. “If you’re caught doing something idiotic while you’re here there’s a chance that it will go on your permanent record – and you’ll never get a real job with a felony on your record.”

In order to prevent burnings, the Dept. of Solid Wastes and Utilities will work with Marborg Industries to provide garbage pickup everyday during the end of Spring Quarter.

“Marborg is literally sweeping the streets from morning to night, seven days a week,” Spencer said. “Any remaining couches or garbage in general that isn’t picked up by the evening is wetted down by the fire department to prevent any chance of fire before it is picked up the next day.”

The annual GIVE sale, coordinated by UCSB and the county as an alternative way to dispose of unwanted furniture, is another option, sale organizer Sabrina Kwist said. The furniture is sold to I.V. residents at affordable prices and the proceeds go to local non-profit organizations.

“It’s saddening to see the waste that is left after move out,” Kwist said. “The GIVE sale provides an opportunity to give back to our community.”

The collection drive will be held in the Embarcadero Hall parking lot from 2-8 p.m. on June 11-22. The sale is scheduled for Saturday, June 23, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the same lot.

To arrange for pick-up of donations or for more information about volunteering to help with the sale, call 968-5158 or email at