Fiery start to student area cleanup

KATHRYN KING
Last updated 12:00 09/11/2012
KERBSIDE COLLECTION: Palmerston North City Council workers collect old furniture and junk from Morris St.
ROBERT KITCHIN/FAIRFAX NZ
KERBSIDE COLLECTION: Palmerston North City Council workers collect old furniture and junk from Morris St.

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Palmerston North firefighters hope the latest round of free rubbish collections from student areas will stamp out the small number of fires that have started as the academic year winds down.

In the past few days, an armchair, wheelie bin, and couch have been set alight in student-populated areas, including College, Ada and Morris streets.

The couch, in Morris St, was put on the kerb on Wednesday night ahead of the latest furniture pickup yesterday.

It was believed to have been set alight by a passerby.

A resident of the flat the couch came from, Simon Mathis, said he wasn't home when the couch was torched. He found its charred remains outside when he arrived home yesterday morning.

There were "quite a few" other pieces of furniture out on the road that night, he said.

A piece of furniture was also dropped on the road outside a nearby house and set alight, but no damage was done to any of the surrounding areas.

The occupant of that house picked up what looked to be the remains of a chair and dropped it off next to their burnt couch yesterday morning, he said.

Fire services were called to put out the fires, while police spoke to witnesses, but no-one has been caught.

Operation Combi is a scheme to combat street fires and anti-social behaviour in student accommodation areas. It involves police, the Fire Service, ACC, Palmerston North City Council and the Massey University Students' Association.

Council collectors pick up unwanted furniture biannually to coincide with students moving into and leaving flats.

Senior fire station officer Ian King said the flier for the furniture pickup warned people not to put their furniture out too early if possible as it often became a target.

Little fires were "typical" at this time of year, but the cleanup would take away a lot of problems, he said.

Palmerston North fire risk management officer Murray Kidd said the area near Ada and Rolleston streets continued to be a problem spot.

In one of last year's pickups, five tonnes of furniture was removed from the streets.

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- Manawatu Standard

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