The debate surrounding the popular Southern California pastime of beach bonfires has been reignited. A bill to protect beach bonfires on California beaches passed out of an Assembly committee with unanimous bipartisan support -- 16-0 -- on Thursday.
California Assembly Bill 1102 would require the South Coast Air Quality Management District “to work with local cities and other coastal oversight agencies to prove that there will be no loss of beach access, no harm to local economies and that any environmental concerns are addressed before a city can remove the fire rings from the beaches in Orange and Los Angeles counties,” according to a news release sent by Assemblyman Travis Allen’s secretary. The bill is a response to a regional air quality agency ruling that prohibits fire rings within a certain distance from residences.
Proponents of the bill argue that bonfires are a community and family recreational tradition on the state’s beaches. On the other hand, opponents of the bill want to ensure that open burning is conducted in a manner that minimizes emissions and impacts from burning wood.
“It’s important that we work together to protect our environment while preserving this historic, safe and inexpensive family recreational tradition on our beaches,” Allen, one of the bill's sponsors, wrote.
The SCAQMD enacted amendments to rule 444 in July 2013 which is set to go into effect March 1. This rule requires that beach burning takes place at least 700 feet from residences and at least 100 feet apart from one another. This compromise, however, would affect more than 700 bonfire rings in Orange and LA counties.
Next, the bill advances to the Assembly.