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Newport Commission Says Fire Rings Must Go

The next step is for the City Council to decide if the 60 fire rings should be banned.

Concerns about the city's beach-side fire rings flared up at Tuesday night's Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission meeting.

Several residents spoke against the 60 city-owned fire rings -- which include 27 at Big Corona Beach and 33 near the Balboa Pier-- while two commissioners suggested looking at ways to keep them in place. After a long debate, the commission voted 4-3 to ask the City Council to ban the rings and have them removed.

Resident Barbara Peters was one of many residents who spoke at the meeting and said studies show that short term exposure to this type of smoke can aggravate lung disease, acute bronchitis and asthma.

“The wood smoke is bad enough," Peters said. "We see people throw painted and lacquered furniture into the fires along with pallets, plastic, and anything on hand.

"When you consider the tradeoff between recreational use versus a public health threat, it should be an easy decision.”

Commissioner Roy Englebrecht -- who voted no along with Commissioners Tom Anderson and Marie Marston -- said a ban on the fire rings would cost the city  money in parking revenue and business and suggested city staff look at cleaner methods, including converting all of the fire rings into natural gas pits.

“There are thousands upon thousands of families who come to Big Corona Beach each year and for them, this may be their only camp fire experience," he said. "A trip to the fire rings is about memories; family memories, church memories, school memories, dating memories, work place memories, club memories. We must find a way to find a solution to the fire rings that we can stay in the memory business."

Resident Frank Peters agreed the fire rings brought about memories of when he would organize Boy Scout gatherings, but said they aren't worth the health risk.

“I now look at what I have learned from the dangers of wood smoke, and understand that an evening of pleasure with the Boy Scouts or any group down there at the beach comes with too high of price for the residents and my fellow citizens," he said.

While the commission heard from many residents who want to see the fire rings banned, Anderson referenced the Save the Big Corona Fire Pits! Facebook page that has more than 1,800 fans.

"While I feel that it appears well represented tonight, I think there is another side of the point that should be heard," he said.

In the end, the majority commission members shared the sentiment of Commissioner Jack Tingly who said: "I think we need to look forward, the past has been great, and I think a change is needed."

At the meeting, Laura Detweiler, the city's recreation and senior services director, said the rings carry at least a 60-year history and are about 330 feet away from homes.

The City Council will take up further discussions on the fire rings at a future meeting.

Non-smoker February 09, 2012 at 06:33 PM
A few thoughts after the meeting. I could share with Commissioner Englebrecht a memory I have of watching my mother-in-law struggle with a painful asthma attack. Then I have to question his accounting. He creatively added up lost revenues, but managed to leave out the expenses that the City would no longer have - to maintain the rings, provide law enforcement, paramedics, clean up. Even the grafitti hot line would likely see some reduced expense. I suppose he also discounts the cost of potential liabiity. Mr. Anderson seemed concerned about the Facebook fans when none of them seemed concerned enough to show up. Maybe some of them are even looking at the evidence and have seen the the EPA estimates wood smoke to be "12 times more carcinogenic than tobacco smoke and it attacks our body cells up to 40 times longer than tobacco smoke". Over half a century ago when these rings were put here, at least people had the excuse of not knowing the health consequences. Now, it seems to me the only excuse is pretending not to know.
Ring Ofire February 09, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Wow...this tops the list of "everything is bad for you!" It seems Mr. Peters has faired pretty well and is still living and BREATHING since his BoyScout days! I would agree, prolonged exposure to fire smoke is dangerous, but who sits downwind from a fire pit and inhales the smoke?? Ms. Peters concerns are valid...for her family...but please dont push your health concerns on others! We are adults and can make our own decisions if we want to be exposed to fire smoke or not. Same for cigaretts.....people know they are bad for you but they choose to smoke anyway. Why ruin it for others that DO like the firepits and have long standing traditions with them! They are not lit 24/7 and most only spend a few hours around them on random occasions, not daily. The solution is to move them further away from the homes and please stop pushing your opinions on others to change something that most dont agree on. I was born in Newport and have spent my share of firepit experiences and I too am still breathing and healthy! By the way...how many fatalities/injuries has NB insurance paid out that was directly caused by a fire pit since their installation?? Is there any?? Not to sound heartless...but if someone has asthma...dont go near smoke!!!! Firepits live on!!
ace February 10, 2012 at 04:32 AM
I have an ieea.. Why not put a 1000 fine on playing with a frisbee or football on the OC Beaches. What ...You say It has already been done...
Megan April 06, 2013 at 04:38 PM
Ms. Peters, Why on earth did you move to a home so close to so many fire pits if you hated them so much? It seems to only show poor judgement on your account in regards to purchasing a home. Perhaps you should do more research next time you move somewhere. Just because you do not know how to properly look for a home does not mean you should impose your views on the community you move to. I have allergy attacks from some newspapers due to the ink used, but that just means I should be more careful when touching newspapers. It does not mean I should create a war on them. If it is that much of a health issue for you, then move, or close your windows. There are so many more ways to solve this issue than to create a two countywide ban on the fire rings. As this becomes a far more public issue, I can assure you that people that can show up to the meetings will.

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