Corona del Mar Today: Council will decide whether to remove fire rings

March 10, 2012

The Newport Beach City Council on Tuesday will decide whether the city should remove 60 beach fire rings because of health and safety concerns — the same night that thousands of visitors at Big Corona State Beach will be marking the Persian New Year with a ritual jump across a blazing fire.

The City Council in September asked that the Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission study beach fire rings and make a recommendation about whether they should be removed. On Feb. 7, the commissioners voted 4-3 for removal.

The rings at Big Corona State Beach annually draw thousands of visitors celebrating Persian New Year with food, family reunions and bonfires. Jumping over a flame cleanses the jumper by giving sickness to the fire and is an ancient tradition based on a story of an old Persian king, last year's participants said.


The fires are fine for once-a-year visitors enjoying Persian New Year or a Scouting event, several opponents have said.

But the year-round smoke is a health hazard for nearby residents, many have told city officials.

"Nineteen members of the public (at last month's parks commission meeting) spoke in favor of removing the fire rings and cited health related concerns including child safety, air quality hazards related to smoke, the presence of toxic fumes, burning embers floating in the air, the burning of hazardous materials in the rings, Air Quality Management District restrictions that now ban fireplaces in new housing developments as a result of burning wood impacts, and the related risks of cancer," according to a staff report included with the agenda. "No members of the public spoke in favor of retaining the fire rings."

The council will consider the commission's recommendation and then give direction to staff, who would have to obtain coastal permits and work with the California Coastal Commission before removing any pits.

Big Corona State Beach has 27 concrete fire rings, and the Balboa Pier area has 33 rings. If the rings are removed, clean up would include cleaning the sand and minor backfilling to restore the beach surface, the staff report states.

City officials have received numerous letters and emails, some saying that the fire rings should stay.

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