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Beach fire pits: Restrictions approved on fire pits

A fire pit is seen at a beach in an undated file photo.
July 12, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The South Coast Air Quality Management District board approved on Friday restrictions on fire pits at Southland beaches, requiring them to be at least 700 feet from homes and imposing pollution standards.

The Air Quality Management District Board met Friday in Diamond Bar and voted 7-6 on the controversial measure.

The idea to ban the pits came to light in Corona Del Mar after residents began complaining about the beach's fire rings. Many viewed the fire pits as a health hazard, saying the smoke drifts over and pollutes their homes. Others supported the wood-burning fire pits as a longtime beach tradition.

The California Coastal Commission ruled on the matter and decided the rings should stay. According to the state agency, the fire pits are an important beach attraction and provides those who can't afford to live at the beach a good time.

The Air Quality Management District conducted a number of studies following residents' health concerns. The air pollution agency measured the particulate pollution from these fire rings and determined safety concerns were an important issue.

The AQMD was initially considering a ban on fire pits that would prohibit out-door burning on all beaches from Malibu to San Clemente. The issue angered many residents and led to a huge public outcry, which caused the agency to re-examine their proposal.

Sam Atwood, spokesperson for the Air Quality Management District, says the new proposal would only regulate the number and location of fire rings up and down the coast.

"It is a major change from the first proposed ban," said Atwood. "AQMD has listened to all the public comment we received at public meetings and through emails."

Under the new recommended regulations, fire pits would be required to be 700 feet away from residences. The fire rings would also be required to be 100 feet apart or 50 feet apart if the city has 15 or fewer fire pit.

The plan would also call for a pilot program that would allow propane gas tanks to be used in some areas as an alternative for the fire pits.

The proposal affects Corona Del Mar, Balboa, Doheny, and Huntington State Beach.

"I recognize the need for a compromise," said Barbara Peters, a fire ring ban supporter. "It is a place to start. It does recognize that wood smoke is harmful to people's health."

The AQMD proposal would also give cities more say on regulating the fire rings themselves. Still, a large contingent of Huntington Beach residents who wants the rings are gearing up for a fight.

"We've had them for over 60 years. It's a way of life. It's part of that Southern California vibe. People from all over the world know about the fire rings at Huntington Beach. It's just part of the culture," said Jerry Wheeler of the Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce.

A culture the AQMD says it respects and will try and protect as it also tries to clear the air for those concerned about their health.


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