Southern California environment news and trends

Tension heats up among Orange County, cities, regulators over fire rings


Some in Orange County say air regulators should leave beach fire rings alone. They want cities or the county to decide the fate of beach bonfires.

Local air regulators want to ban beach fire rings - and the bonfires that fill them - saying they're unhealthy. But Orange County and some of its cities are fighting the proposal.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District says wood fires release emissions that are harmful to people and the climate.

The city of Newport Beach agrees - it has asked the California Coastal Commission to remove 60 concrete rings on its beach that are used for bonfires.

But elected officials and other bonfire lovers gathered around a fire at Huntington Beach yesterday to protest. They argue that these fire rings attract visitors --and revenue-- to beach towns.

Orange County supervisor Janet Nguyen helped pass a resolution against a fire ring ban. "The message is let the power be in the local hands," she said. "For the county at least, on our beaches, we want to keep those fire pits. But we also do respect other cities and what they want to do."

Robert Kavanaugh, a small business owner in Huntington Beach, wants his daughter to enjoy the beach fires, just as he did growing up. He said he'd go to court to fight a ban. "Some of my oldest and fondest memories are sitting around in beach parks enjoying bonfires," he said. "California has clearly become a nanny state."

Regional air regulators will take up fire rings again in June.

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