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Fire pit compromise proposed

AQMD outlines plan that creates buffer areas between the rings and homes and give cities more control.

June 07, 2013|By Jill Cowan and Anthony Clark Carpio

Regional air-quality regulators floated a compromise this week in the face of fierce debate over the South Coast Air Quality Management District's proposed ban on beach fire rings.

An updated rule change proposal released Thursday night softens an earlier iteration of the proposed rule — which would have banned wood-burning fire rings from beaches in Orange and Los Angeles counties — by creating "buffer zones" between fire rings and homes and allowing for greater local control.

District officials announced that they are working with the city of Newport Beach on a test run of "alternative fuel" fire rings, which would probably run on propane or natural gas.

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While Newport Beach officials have pushed to remove their city's rings on grounds they pose a health risk to nearby residents, Huntington Beach officials have led a charge to save the bonfires, which they say are a rich Southern California tradition — not to mention a major draw for tourists.

Since the district proposed the ban in late March, state lawmakers, local officials and residents throughout both counties have weighed in on the debate over the fire rings, which, over the course of the debate, have been likened to apple pie, carpet bombing in Vietnam and magic.

The district board voted Friday morning to consider the issue at a special meeting July 12, though the proposed rule changes wouldn't go into effect until March 1, 2014.

The revised proposal would allow wood-burning fire rings that are at least 700 feet from the closest homes, at least 100 feet from each other or at least 50 feet apart if there are 15 or fewer fire rings within a city's boundaries.

District spokesman Sam Atwood said that the 700-feet figure was chosen based on air-quality dispersion studies.

According to staff reports, he said, "about 700 feet away from the source, you reduce relative exposure by 98%," which staff members felt was a sufficient drop in health hazard.

Under the proposed rule, about 30 rings located less than 700 feet from the Huntington-By-The-Sea mobile home park near Pacific Coast Highway between Beach Boulevard and Newland Street would either have to be removed or moved to locations that would put them at least 100 feet apart.

Atwood said about 10 rings at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point, between two and four rings at Capistrano Beach in Dana Point and between two and four rings at Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro would also have to be removed or shifted.

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