Compromise Vote Would Likely Cut Number of Fire Pits

A meeting held on Friday set new rules for popular beach fire pits, long a Southern California tradition

By Jason Kandel
|  Friday, Jul 12, 2013  |  Updated 8:54 PM PDT
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The South Coast Air Quality Management District voted to push coastal fire rings back at least 700 feet from homes, or limit them to a distance of 100 feet apart. Officials estimate many of the fire pits will disappear when the law takes effect next spring. Vikki Vargas reports from Diamond Bar for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on July 12, 2013.

Vikki Vargas

The South Coast Air Quality Management District voted to push coastal fire rings back at least 700 feet from homes, or limit them to a distance of 100 feet apart. Officials estimate many of the fire pits will disappear when the law takes effect next spring. Vikki Vargas reports from Diamond Bar for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on July 12, 2013.

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OC Supervisors Vote to Keep Bonfires on Beaches

Coastal residents want the fire pits banned, saying they are a safety and environmental issue, but others -- including county officials -- believe they are a family tradition that should remain where they are. Vikki Vargas reports from Aliso Beach for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on April 23, 2013.
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In a compromise, an air quality panel voted to keep a rule allowing beach fire pits but voted to move them 700 feet away from homes.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) Governing Board voted 7 to 6 in favor of the restrictions at a special meeting held at its headquarters in Diamond Bar on Friday.

The move will become effective March 2014.

The fate of fire pits, long a Southern California tradition, came Friday as a stream of supporters spoke out against any possible rule that would ban a 60-year tradition.

The restriction voted on Friday would likely cut the number of fire pits from 765 to 665 in LA and Orange counties, said Sam Atwood, a spokesman with the SCAQMD. (An earlier version of the story said the number affected would be cut by half.)

At the end of the meeting, an upset resident was escorted out of the meeting by a deputy.

Supporters of fire pits set up a website hoping to protect the tradition.

“Beach bonfire rings have been an important part of the Huntington Beach culture and experience for over 60 years,” according to http://www.savethebonfirerings.com/, indicating $220 has been raised to protect fire pits. “They provide an affordable means of gathering family and friends along the shore to celebrate our outdoor beach lifestyle with s’mores and hotdog roasting under the stars, all while enjoying the glow of a warm fire.”

The AQMD, which for the first time imposed restrictions on fireplace fires this past winter, issued a report in June that said particulate pollution was high in Corona del Mar and Huntington Beach.

Agency staffers also recommended removing fire rings within 700 feet of homes -- a recommendation that means all of Newport Beach's fire pits.

The effort is designed to cut fine and coarse particulate emissions from wood and biomass burning to help meet federal and state air quality standards, officials said.

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