Orange County supervisors oppose ban on beach fire pits


Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution asking the South Coast Air Quality Management District not to impose the ban. The board wants the regulation of the fire pits to be left up to municipal governments.

"Outlawing fire rings is like (banning) mother and apple pie," Supervisor Todd Spitzer said. "First youth out, first kiss -- there are some things that are sacred about those fire rings."

Citing health concerns, the amendments would prohibit out-door burning on all beaches from Malibu to San Clemente. It all started when Newport Beach residents complained about effect that the fire pits were having on their air quality and residents' health.

Huntington Beach is fighting against the ban, saying the fire pits are a part of beach culture. The city has also started a petition to save the fire pits. Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce officials say the city would lose $1 million annually in parking income if the fire pits are banned. The city has about 200 fire pits.

Air quality officials aren't expected to vote on the ban until June. If it's approved, the ban will affect beaches across Orange County and some beaches in Los Angeles County.

One possible compromise AQMD is looking at are fire pits that use propane or natural gas. The fires would still burn on the beach without the pollution endangering the health of coastal residents.

The Newport Beach City Council has already voted unanimously to remove all 60 fire pits. Since the pits are located on state beaches, the city needs the OK from the California Coastal Commission before removing them. That process has hit a few delays, with the commission saying the city has not offered clear evidence that wood smoke is harmful to people.

Earlier this month, the California Coastal Commission postponed a decision on Newport Beach's request to remove fire pits from the city's beaches because that agency wanted to wait for feedback from the AQMD.

The AQMD has a public hearing set for May 3.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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