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Council decision removes fire rings at beaches

Unanimous vote came without debate after many spoke out, saying the rings presented air quality problems.

March 14, 2012|By Amy Senk, Corona del Mar Today
  • Hasti Mofidi, from left, and Kimia Kashvardoost, both 12 and from Anaheim Hills, cook marshmallows as they celebrate the Persian New Year, know as Norooz, held at Corona del Mar State Beach Tuesday, March 13.
Hasti Mofidi, from left, and Kimia Kashvardoost, both… (KEVIN CHANG, Daily…)

Newport Beach City Manager Dave Kiff met with staff Wednesday to discuss the next steps after the City Council voted to remove fire rings at local beaches, an official said.

The council voted Tuesday unanimously and without any debate to ask staff to remove the city's 60 rings because of safety and air quality concerns.

But it will take several months — and California Coastal Commission approval — before the rings are gone.

"We'll consult with both the Coastal Commission and state parks," said Laura Detweiler, the city's recreation and senior services department director. "It's probably a couple of weeks' process to pull all the pieces together."

Removing the rings would only take a couple of days and would be done by a regular beach maintenance crew, she said. Corona del Mar has 27 concrete fire rings, the Balboa Pier area 33.

Coastal Commission permission likely will take months, coastal staff said.

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"It's going to take some time," said Fernie Sy, a commission coastal program analyst. "It's not a simple dock on someone's house. There's a bigger impact on this project. It's an amenity for the public."

Before issuing a permit, a full, public Coastal Commission hearing would be held, he said. Scheduling a hearing usually occurs between eight and 12 weeks after a permit is received, Sy said, in order to give coastal staff time to review and create a staff report.

The council's vote followed an hour-long public hearing, with most of the 29 speakers testifying in support of removing the rings.

"Before I go to sleep at night, I put my face in front of the purifier to remember what clean air smells like," said Charles Farrell, a Balboa Peninsula residents who said he has 15 fire pits directly in front of his home. "It's the plastic smell that makes me sick … I am a victim of slow asphyxiation."

A lifelong Newport Beach resident and Hoag Hospital pulmonologist, Ryan Klein told council members that the smoke aggravates asthma and other chronic lung diseases. Some residents of Breakers Drive above Big Corona said family members could not visit because the fire ring smoke aggravated their lung diseases. And others expressed concern about crime, injuries and floating embers that could cause a fire.

Other residents expressed desire to keep the rings, perhaps with limits on what kind of fuel is burned or with a reservation and payment system that would pay for fire ring-specific park rangers.

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