City council bans furniture outside homes


Cory Hackbarth, senior mass communication design major, has a couch on his porch and is not in favor of the ordinance. Photo credit: Jenelle Kapellas

At a city council meeting on Dec. 1, the Chico Fire Department recommended an ordinance to council members that will prohibit furniture outside homes and patios.

The ordinance passed and will be effective immediately, according to Sean Morgan, vice mayor of Chico.

It aims to eliminate couch and furniture burning and brings awareness to fire safety.

According to Dan Herbert, director of Off Campus Student Services, the fire department has responded to 120 incidents of furniture fires outside homes and on roads in the past year.

All furniture burnings are dangerous, he said, especially the ones that are started on porches.

“I don’t know a lot about [the ordinance], but it seems a little ridiculous,” said Cory Hackbarth, senior mass communication design major. “I think it could be legitimate for certain areas of town or certain porches, but if it’s for all porches in general, I think it’s a little absurd.”

Four Chico State students could have easily lost their lives last year if it wasn’t for a neighbor seeing a couch fire start in the middle of the night, Herbert said.

The home was damaged and could not be occupied for an extended period of time.

“In another recent incident, a couch street fire turned into a game where people were jumping on the burning couch,” Herbert said. “One Chico State student wasn’t successful in the jump and was seriously injured with third-degree burns, which abruptly ended her school year.”

In addition to the dangerous activity of furniture burning, some feel furniture outside is not attractive and should be out of view for the public.

“Honestly these old worn out couches have become an eyesore most of the time, and has become a dangerous activity that has obviously increased,” said Melanie Basset, director of the Downtown Chico Business Association.

However, some students are not in favor of the ordinance.

“I think it’s bad because when it’s hot in the summer, me and all my friends hang out on our porch and relax,” said Felipe Carvalho, senior electrical engineering major.

The fire department has collected data on maps that show more than half of arson charges and couch burning occur in the south campus neighborhood.

Zeth Martinez, senior English major, says he has not heard of couch burnings and it’s not a problem where he lives.

“As far as I know, there haven’t been burnings around where I live, so I think it’s uncalled for and I don’t know if that should be the solution,” he said.

According to Herbert, similar ordinances have taken place in many university communities like Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

“The issue of couch and mattress burning is not unique to Chico, but has become a serious issue in campus-area neighborhoods,” Herbert said.

Citations will be issued as a last resort. There will be a marketing and education campaign launched on campus, Bassett said.

“No one is trying to keep anyone from enjoying the outdoors or their patios. The unfortunate reality is that these pieces of furniture are combustible and they are catching on fire, both purposely and accidentally, and it’s unsafe,” Morgan said.

However, many students such as Charvalho are not in agreement with the city’s new ordinance.

“It’s not fair the city is going to take that away because some kids choose to burn couches,” he said.

Lauren Anderson can be reached at [email protected] or @laurentaylora on Twitter.