Bill to Keep Beach Fire Pits Moves Forward

The bill would require public agencies trying to remove a fire pit to apply for a coastal development grant

By Jeanne Kuang
|  Tuesday, Jun 24, 2014  |  Updated 5:38 PM PDT
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Beach goers gather around traditional beach bonfires at sunset on July 6, 2013 in Huntington Beach, California.

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California lawmakers on Tuesday pushed forward a bill that would prevent the removal of dozens of beach bonfire rings in Newport Beach and Huntington Beach.

Assembly Bill 1102 would require that city officials apply for permits that suggest how they would cut down on the smoke that comes from beach fire pits.

Fire pits have been the center of debate for more than a year in some Southern California beach communities. Supporters feel strongly about the fire pits, saying it's a big part of the Southern California lifestyle. Opponents say they are big sources of pollution on the coast.

"Beach bonfires are an activity enjoyed by people from all across California, including those who cannot afford multi-million dollar beachfront homes," said Assemblyman Travis Allen, one of the main sponsors of the bill.

The bill has several steps before it could go to the Governor's desk, but Allen says, if passed, it will address both air quality concerns and people's ability to enjoy a Southern California staple.

A rule already put into play this year requires all fire pits Southern California beach communities to be 700 feet away from residences and 100 apart.

Supporters who've created a website called Save the Fire Rings, say that beach bonfire rings have been an important part of the culture for over 60 years.

But opponents, including SCAQMD and the American Lung Association, say the public should not be exposed to wood smoke, which they say contains the same toxic chemicals as cigarette smoke.

Sam Atwood, a spokesman for SCAQMD, said some cities, instead of moving the rings as the air quality board required, have opted to require beach goers to use less-toxic charcoal pits, which has sparked more criticism.

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