The fire rings at Big Corona Beach and near the Balboa Pier in Newport Beach will continue to burn.
At least for now.
On Wednesday, the California Coastal Commission voted unanimously to postpone a decision on Newport Beach's request to remove the city's 60 beach fire rings. The postponement gives the South Coast Air Quality Management District time to determine if the fire rings should have stronger restrictions.
In Newport's application to the Coastal Commission -- filed last May -- city officials said the fire pits present health and fire risks to nearby residents, as well as safety risks to beachgoers and residents who could be burned by hot ash from improperly extinguished fires. Fire-ring supporters say the bonfires provide the community with opportunities to make memories and enjoy the beach lifestyle.
The Coastal Commission's staff recently recommended the panel keep the rings. According to the report, getting rid of the 27 rings at Big Corona Beach and the 33 near the Balboa Pier would undercut a “popular form of lower cost public recreation.”
Resident Karen James spoke at Wednesday's meeting, and said the fire ring issue is a decision about the health and safety of the public versus sentimentality.
Her vote is for the fire rings to be banned.
"I live three blocks away but the prevailing winds blow the smoke inland," James said. "I have to sleep with my windows closed in the summers.”
Resident John Hamilton, who was recently diagnosed with emphysema, said his doctor recommended moving if the rings stay.
"I love nostalgia, I collect it," Hamilton said. "But what's more important to me is the health of myself, my neighbors and the beachgoers."
Nadine Turner, who has lived in Newport Beach several decades, told the Coastal Commission she wanted the fire rings to stay.
"Nowadays our kids cannot even go play soccer at a public park because they need a permit," Turner said. "The fire rings are a unique part of Newport Beach and I think people should be able to enjoy them and have fun."
Should the Coastal Commission let the fire rings stay in Newport Beach? Or is it time for the fire rings be a thing of the past? Tell us in the comments.