Beachgoers enjoy a fire in Corona del Mar. Supporters of the threatened… (Amy Senk / Corona del Mar…)
Supporters of the fire rings that line the Orange County shoreline gathered Sunday at Huntington State Beach to send a political smoke signal to air quality regulators who want to snuff out the decades-old tradition in the name of health.
Proponents of beach fires cooked hot dogs, roasted marshmallows and told supporters why they believe the South Coast Air Quality Management District is wrong in its proposal to ban fire rings in Orange and Los Angeles counties.
"The community is completely united in keeping our fire rings," said Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach). "This is who we are in California. This is what we do."
AQMD regulators are studying the issue, largely because residents in Newport Beach raised concerns about the carcinogens emitted from burning wood used in the rings.
Allen said an online petition supporting the fire rings is circulating. Another petition was passed around at Sunday's event.
"It would be tragic if an unelected body like the AQMD takes away our fire rings that have been a tradition for years," Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa) added. "If they take that away, what's next?"
The fire rings' fate came up after the city of Newport Beach submitted a request to the California Coastal Commission in August to remove 60 fire rings near Balboa Pier and at Corona del Mar State Beach because of possible negative health effects for residents.
AQMD caught wind of the issue after Newport used the district's Rule 444 as an argument, which would allow the city to remove the rings because of the smoke it generates and its adverse health effects.
At a public hearing in March, Huntington Beach city officials said they wanted to retain about 500 fire rings for financial reasons and asked that the hearing about the ban be postponed.
After Huntington Beach supplied the district with a letter of correspondence from the Coastal Commission, AQMD agreed to push its decision to June 7.
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