Hi, my name is Noah Nevins. As per the request of the district attorney, I have written this letter about the dangers of couch fires, something that so many students DON’T KNOW about! Nobody takes it seriously, and I hope my letter helps other students as well.

Where to start? I guess I should start by saying I had a great time and learned a lot as a Santa Barbara City College student, but living in Isla Vista came at a price. Apart from all of the parties and the endless surf sessions with friends, there is a serious epidemic in the area. I’m not talking about drinking; I’m talking about the endless couch fires that so many know too well.

I had my first encounter with a couch fire when I was riding my bike along the street and a crowd of students were sitting around a burning couch in the middle of the street. It might be strange to most people, but it is very normal here. And that’s the problem. So many kids don’t really realize that they are committing a serious crime that can get them in a lot of trouble. Instead of putting the fire out, everyone decides to stand around it and maybe even jump over it a few times. That is, until the fire department comes and breaks them up.

Now I’m going to tell you a little story that didn’t go so well. I was writing a school paper when I heard fire trucks outside my door. My friends and I walked outside to see the fire department actually driving away from a smoldering fire in the street in front of my house. I later found out that they weren’t abandoning the fire like we thought, they were actually attending to another larger fire that was happening down the street. Stupidly, I decided to go and also play with the fire by throwing some additional things on top of it. I didn’t know that this action, which I had seen other do so many times before, was illegal and helping to fuel a fire.

I soon realized I was in trouble when a police officer came up to me and grabbed me. I immediately confessed to throwing in additional scraps. However, my honesty was not their concern. I was promptly sat down on the curb and after several questions I was actually arrested. I had to spend 13 and a half hours overnight inside a jail cell. I ended up missing my class and not turning in my paper on time. I didn’t even get to finish it. It’s now been several months since that incident, but the effects that it had have definitely not left my mind. Not only did I have to hire a lawyer, begin community service hours and pay several fines, but I’ve had to go through the mental stress that comes with doing something illegal.

Even though I wasn’t the one to start the fire, I realized that I had helped make the jobs of firefighters and police that much more difficult. After talking to one of the police officers who drove me to jail, I began to realize how much of an epidemic these fires really were. The officer told me that on an average night they are called in for about 20 fires. That’s now. He told me a few years ago it would reach 50 to 70 fires a night! The fact that police and firefighters have to worry about children setting fires in the street is absurd; they’re supposed to be available to deal with the more serious crimes that many I.V. residents are all too familiar with.

Luckily I was only given an infraction — similar to a traffic ticket — and had to do community service and pay some fines. However, that only came after months of collecting letters of recommendation and having my lawyer speak with the district attorney several times! Other people are getting misdemeanors or could even face felony charges! Understand that this is serious. Just think about what would happen if one of these fires got out of control and reached a house. I strongly urge anyone who reads my story to take it into consideration when they are out in I.V. Don’t just be a mindless sheep and do something stupid just for the recognition from others. I know that I have learned a lot, and I know that I will never again do something that could ruin my life forever. Don’t make the same mistake. Don’t light couch fires in Isla Vista. Be considerate.

Noah Nevins is a resident of Isla Vista.

Views expressed on the Opinion page do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Nexus or UCSB. Opinions are submitted primarily by students.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, April 30, 2014 print edition of the Daily Nexus.