Air quality board to consider ending beach fire exemption

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Should beach fires be banned in Southern California? That’s the question before local air quality regulators Thursday.

What had been an issue just in Newport Beach has now gone regional. The Newport Beach city council wanted to remove its beach fire rings, but it needed permission from the California Coastal Commission.

A Coastal Commission staff report said the rings should stay, in part because beach fires are exempt from air quality standards.

But then members of the South Coast Air Quality Management District board said they wanted to look into that exemption—and not just for Newport Beach, but for all local beaches.

That’s set off concerns in Huntington Beach, where the visitors bureau put out a statement saying that fire rings have been a “Surf City” tradition for more than 60 years and removing them would result in the loss of tourism revenue—a million dollars a year from parking fees alone.

The Air Quality board will listen to comments at its Thursday morning meeting, and plans to vote on fire rings on May 3—just before the start of prime beach season.