At about four in the morning Sunday, I was woken up by the sound of some drunken shouting outside my window. This has happened before, so I didn’t pay attention to the drunken jackassing around that was happening outside. Soon, a car alarm went off and I started to get a bit upset, but rolled over and nodded off instead. The car alarm went off again and I heard some sirens outside in I.V. that were getting louder. “Good,” I thought, “these obnoxious partiers across the way will be quieted down and I could get some sleep.” My room became lit up with the flashing of the police car’s lights, so I finally decided to take a peek out the window.

Instead of simply seeing an officer knocking on a door and breaking up a party, I saw a fire. It seemed pretty big. A couch had been lit up in the alley. Fire quickly spread to the four or five plastic recycling containers next to the couch and was crawling up the wall of the apartment building directly across from mine. Flames were licking the overhang and it looked like the roof would soon catch and the entire apartment would go up. It was sort of odd – the wall itself was not on fire but had flames running some feet up it. Another police officer quickly showed up and I heard many sirens coming closer fast. People tried using fire extinguishers on it, but it didn’t help much.

I grabbed my camera and ran outside in time to see people coming out of the apartment that was on fire. The thing was putting out an incredible amount of heat and I noticed a car next to the dumpsters that looked like it was either burning or about to catch and its front plastic stuff was melted. Soon the fire department came and blasted the blaze with some foam and in a minute or two it was mostly out.

I really don’t know if the fire was set on purpose or if someone flicked a cigarette butt on the couch in passing or what. I assume the former case is the correct one though. The scary thing here is that there were people not two feet away on the other side of that wall and an entire apartment building of mostly sleeping people. At four in the morning, everyone was fortunate that the fire was spotted and reported when it was because even another five minutes could have meant that the roof and wall actually catching fire and probably bringing down a decent portion of the building.

I always thought it would be cool to see a burning couch, but it turns out it wasn’t cool at all. I hope whoever did that knows they destroyed a lot of property, a car and could have burned to death an entire apartment building. Hopefully someone will be caught and prosecuted for arson, but I doubt it.

I guess my message to everyone is this: Please don’t be an asshole. In a community like Isla Vista, we are all packed in and whatever someone else does will most likely affect a lot of other people. If you live here, you know. If you bring friends to our humble town, please keep them under control. There are lots of ways to have fun that don’t involve nuking other people’s things. I’ve been pissed off when the neighbors were loud or my bike got jacked, but at least my house wasn’t on fire. It is a matter of degree, but all this stuff wouldn’t have happened if people would just think about someone other than themselves for a minute. This is a futile hope I know, but is my hope nonetheless.

Finally, I just wanted to thank the police and fire departments for their rapid treatment of the situation Sunday morning. Especially for the police. You guys have been taking a lot of crap in the paper recently, but it’s good to know that no matter what, you guys are out there making sure we are safe and protecting us while we sleep. These men and women save us from our own stupid selves and they rarely get thanked.

Craig Belon is a senior chemistry major.