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California beach bonfires get regulated

Paul Taylor

The hundreds of Southern California public beach fire pits have become an evening gatherings place for families, friends and tourists for more than 60 years. Earlier this year the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) and California Coastal Commission tried to remove public beach fire pits from local communities due to air quality impacts.

California governments already regulate dogs, playing horseshoes, smoking, playing ball, Frisbees, alcohol and surfing at California beaches. Last week, California regulators moved to restrict beach fire pits — beach city-provided concrete rings designed to contain wood bonfires. The impacted California beach cities are: Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Dana Point, San Pedro and San Diego.

The SCAQMD contends that the potential health effects from fire pit air pollution are significant and measurable, and that harmful levels of such fine particulate pollution were detected in the air outside beachfront homes.

New SCAQMD regulations establish buffer zones (“setbacks”) and other spacing requirements to protect beachfront homes from the fine particle pollution arising from the region’s 765 beach fire rings. Such regulations will allow most fire rings to stay but will require removal or relocation of hundreds of fire rings.

Specifically, the regulations require beach fire rings to be at least 700 feet from homes, or closer if the rings are spaced at least 100 feet apart. The regulations also allow cities to ban all beach fires within their limits if they declare the fires a nuisance.

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