As the smoke clears from a recent string of couch fires, officials in Isla Vista and Santa Barbara County are preparing for the upcoming couch-burning season.

Couch-burning season traditionally occurs when students decide to dispose of their couches as they prepare to move out of their I.V. residences. Isla Vista Foot Patrol Sgt. Steve Johnson said the IVFP is increasing the number of uniformed and plainclothes officers patrolling I.V. for the rest of the quarter in an attempt to stop couch burnings.

Johnson said he thinks local residents are more concerned than usual about couch burning right now, because more than six couches were lit on fire during an April 27 power outage in I.V. He said he thinks the recent incidents occurred because many events, such as Cinco de Mayo and the All-Sorority Volleyball Tournament, occur during the spring. The penalties for lighting couches on fire vary, depending on the circumstances of the incident, he said.

“I think couch burning got headlines because of the one particular night with the power outage. That drew a lot of attention,” Johnson said. “Whether we arrest them, issue a citation or bring them to jail, we have different ways to handle different situations.”

Johnson said he thinks couch burning is a problem because the fires distract personnel from the IVFP and the Santa Barbara County Fire Dept., whose time could be better spent elsewhere. He said the fires in I.V. delay the officers’ response time for emergencies and are an unnecessary drain on county resources.

“If the fire department is called out [to] a couch fire, it means they have an extended arrival time if something else happens,” Johnson said. “Their delay may cost people more injuries.”

Santa Barbara County 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone said he also thinks couch burning is a waste of the county’s money. He said the consequences for couch burning are severe, and he said he thinks it is a shame when UCSB students get charged with a felony that could easily be avoided.

“It’s arson and it’s a felony,” Firestone said. “I really feel for the person who’s prosecuted, who otherwise is a brilliant student.”

The penalty for couch burning could be a fine of up to $1,000 and one year in jail.

Isla Vista Recreation and Park District Director Kelly Burns said she is against couch burning because the money spent on cleaning up after couch fires could be spent on other improvements in I.V.

“Everybody wants new sidewalks or lights and instead we’re spending all this money on fixing burn marks on the road,” Burns said.

Burns, a third-year global studies major, said she does not think harsh punishments will convince students to stop setting couches on fire, because it is an I.V. tradition.

“We don’t want to be stricter on students,” Burns said. “We just really need to change the culture.”

UCSB/I.V. Liaison Office Director Catherine Boyer said she thinks the I.V. community should work together to stop couch burning, because it is not something that residents should be proud of.

“There’s really no other place where someone would ignite a couch in front of their own house,” Boyer said.

Burns said there are other ways for students to dispose of unwanted furniture. MarBorg Industries, a local trash collection company, clears the dumpsters in I.V. every Wednesday, she said. The company typically collects excess furniture in the area during spring quarter, since many students are moving out, Burns said.

Students can also donate their old couches and clothes to the GIVE Project instead of throwing them away. The project, which is supported by the Associated Students Recycling Program and the I.V. Tenants’ Union, is a program that collects and sells students’ unwanted items during move-out.

Boyer said GIVE collected approximately 50 couches and over 500 bags of old clothing last year.

GIVE is collecting donations from June 14 to June 23 at various locations on campus and in I.V. Boyer said the items will be sold on June 24 and the proceeds will go to local nonprofit organizations such as the Isla Vista Youth Project and the Isla Vista Teen Center.

Boyer said the GIVE Project provides students with the opportunity to use their unwanted furniture and clothing to support a good cause.

“If the couches are off the street, they won’t get burned,” Boyer said. “We’re trying to give students an alternative to burning [couches] in the street.”