Fire Pits At OC Beaches Struggle To Survive

Fire Pits At OC Beaches Struggle To Survive

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Diamond Bar, CA -

(FOX 11 / CNS) Huntington Beach and Newport Beach officials, who disagree sharply on the desirability of fire pits, will get the chance today to make their cases to the agency that may determine if the popular tradition of beach bonfires survives in the Southland.

South Coast Air Quality Management District officials will hold a meeting to listen to public feedback on a recommendation from the agency's staff to prohibit fire rings on beaches throughout much of Southern California.

The agency oversees all of Orange County and most of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, so if the district board in May upholds the staff's recommendation it would prohibit the fire pits throughout Orange County and most beaches in Los Angeles County.

Newport Beach officials want to prohibit the fire pits, which they regard as a health threat, but their counterparts in Huntington Beach want to keep them legal.

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.

Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce officials say the city would lose $1 million annually in parking income if the fire pits are banned. About 11.9 million people visit state parks in Orange County, bringing in $19 million in revenue, but a fire pit ban would cut that in half, chamber officials contend.

Huntington Beach Mayor Connie Boardman sent a letter to the AQMD last week opposing the proposed ban on fire pits. "The city of Huntington Beach receives more than 11 million visitors
annually," Boardman said. "While not all of those visitors participate in recreational fires on
our beach areas, a large majority visit our beaches solely for that purpose. We estimate that these visitors generate more than $1 million annually in revenue through parking fees, sales tax from local shopping and transient occupancy tax from overnight stays."

The city, which has had the fire rings for six decades, has more than any other beach city in Orange and Los Angeles counties, Boardman said. "The concept of a warm open fire evokes a sense of family and special memories for many generations," Boardman said in the letter. "A few years ago, as a way to reduce maintenance costs at the beach, the city considered removing some of the fire rings. Our residents were outraged. The proposal was dropped."

Newport Beach officials contend the fire pits pose a health hazard for beachgoers and neighbors. The AQMD staff agrees.

There are no residential units near Huntington Beach's fire rings, Boardman said.

 

City News Service contributed to this report.

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