Lexington officials report as many as 25 fires were set in celebration after UK beat Louisville

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comMarch 29, 2014 

Two people were arrested on minor charges and as many as 25 small fires were set in celebration following the University of Kentucky's NCAA Tournament win over Louisville on Friday, Lexington officials said Saturday.

Police Commander Ken Armstrong said at a briefing that there were no serious injuries and that Friday's crowd was a bit smaller and better-behaved than in 2012, when more than 30 people were arrested after NCAA game celebrations. Police did not use force, and measures such as pepper spray were not needed, Armstrong said.

"We were very happy with the outcome. Our tactical plan worked exactly as we thought it would," he said.

Thousands of people streamed into the area between State Street and Waller Avenue following UK's 74-69 win over Louisville. Armstrong said police were not making crowd estimates, and he declined to say how many officers were on duty for crowd control.

Armstrong said a student was charged with a minor theft offense involving property, and another person was charged with alcohol intoxication.

Police were reviewing videos of the crowd to determine whether any other laws were broken among the thousands of revelers, Armstrong said.

"We could have made more arrests, but we used discretion and we realized it was a celebration," Armstrong said.

Susan Straub, spokeswoman for Mayor Jim Gray, said there were no life-threatening injuries and just five emergency medical service runs during the celebration.

Fire Department spokesman and Battalion Chief Joe Best estimated that as many as 25 small fires were set to couches, flags, mattresses and cushions. Best said he saw situations when the crowd surged and people were getting pushed near the fires. He said the EMS runs mostly involved flying glass.

Tyler Davenport, 22, who said he lives in a house on Waller Avenue, said after he went to bed after 1:30 a.m., he saw a light outside his second-story window.

"There was a flame going in my front yard so we had to come downstairs and look," Davenport said. A couch was burning in the yard, he said, but "we don't know who brought it here."

"Everybody who lives here was in bed. Everybody who was staying with us was inside," he said. Davenport said firefighters extinguished the blaze. Aside from that couch, there was little trash in the neighborhoods surrounding campus by mid-morning Saturday.

During the celebration, fire engines were parked in the University of Kentucky Hospital lot. Lexington police were in position outside the bars and had a presence in several neighborhoods and along State Street, an area that is heavily populated with student housing.

After the game, there were reports of a man with an assault rifle on Waller Avenue. Police did not confirm the report, Armstrong said.

UK spokesman Jay Blanton said Saturday that UK police had made no arrests and reported no damage to university property. Property damage overall in Lexington was minimal, Armstrong said, and police recovered most street signs that the people in the crowd removed.

Armstrong said the crowd dispersed by about 4 a.m., and city workers had finished their cleanup by 5 a.m.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter:@vhspears

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