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State Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Protect Beachside Fire Rings

Orange County Assembly members introduce a bill seeking to overturn the South Coast Air Quality Management District's recently approved restrictions on fire pits on Southland beaches.

A fire ring in Newport Beach. (Photo credit Nisha Gutierrez-Jaime)
A fire ring in Newport Beach. (Photo credit Nisha Gutierrez-Jaime)
By City News Service

Two Orange County Assembly members introduced a bill Friday seeking to overturn the South Coast Air Quality Management District's recently approved restrictions on fire pits on Southland beaches.

"Beach bonfires are an activity enjoyed by people from all across California, including those who cannot afford multi-million dollar beachfront homes," said Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, who was joined by Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, in introducing the bill.

"This bipartisan legislation will stop the SCAQMD's attempts to ban beach bonfires on certain California beaches. It's important that we work together to protect this historic, safe and inexpensive family recreational activity on our beaches."

Said Quirk-Silva: "It would be hard to imagine the Orange County Coast without fire rings on the beach. While I sympathize with the need to reduce pollution in Orange County, there are several more effective solutions available to us without taking away not only fun and tradition, but also needed revenue for our coastal parks."

The AQMD board on July 12 voted 7-6 to approve various restrictions on fire pits that are set to go into effect March 1.

The restrictions require fire pits to be kept at least 700 feet away from the nearest residence. The rings can be closer than 700 feet to residences if the rings are at least 100 feet apart from each other -- or at least 50 feet apart if a city has 15 or fewer rings.

The measure also includes restrictions on beach fires on high-pollution days, but that only happened once last winter, according to Sam Atwood of the AQMD.

The biggest effect was expected in Newport Beach.

The restrictions also include pilot programs for fire rings powered by natural or propane gas instead of wood.

Those who wanted the restrictions cited pollution as the main reason.

Opponents of the restrictions say they enjoy fire rings, which they consider a low-cost form of recreation and said they generate business from beachgoers.

Under the guidelines approved, cities maintaining the fire rings must adhere to a standard on pollution that does not exceed 100 fine particulates on the air quality index. Under that criteria, Dockweiler State Beach, Huntington City Beach and Bolsa Chica State Beach would not be affected by the restrictions on fire rings.

Huntington State Beach would have to remove about 30 fire rings within 700 feet of a mobile home park, and fire rings at Corona del Mar State Beach and Balboa Beach will have to be removed or put elsewhere because they are too close to residences. Doheny State Beach would be most affected because homes are within 700 feet.

Two or more fire rings may have to be removed at Capistrano Beach Park, but the restrictions will not affect fire rings in Aliso Beach County Park and along the San Clemente and North Beach coast.

Newport Beach could install 10 fire rings fueled by propane or natural gas instead of wood.

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