Lawmakers say keep the fire rings

Lawmakers have backed an attempt to keep the bonfire pits on California’s beaches, approving a resolution extolling the virtues of beach life that includes hundreds of the he decades-old, cement fire rings.


The measure by Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, a former surfer, was speedily passed in the Senate on Monday; it was approved earlier in the Assembly.


His Assembly Concurrent Resolution 52 is a statement of the Legislature’s view but has no force in law. But the Legislature’s action comes amid an intense dispute in Southern California, where critics contend the fire rings have caused air-quality problems.


“Activities such as beach bonfires are a beloved pastime that is a safe and inexpensive recreational activity enjoyed by all the members of our community,” Allen wrote in a statement following the Senate’s action, in which the resolution was adopted with little opposition. Orange County alone holds more than 600 fire rings available on the city and state beaches for nightly bonfires, “a favorite activity among locals, visitors, and international tourists,” his office said.


“Fire rings in the City of Huntington Beach contribute significantly to the number of annual visitors, and result in over $1 million annually in revenue to the City from direct parking income alone. In addition, the California State Parks of Orange County receives more than 11.9 million visitors annually, resulting in $19 million dollars in revenue.”


Local government officials, responding to complaints from property owners, approved removing the rings. A staff recommendation from the Coastal Commission suggested they should remain. The Air Quality Management District is hearing the issue in July.


An AQMD ruling could affect pits at more than a dozen beaches including municipal beaches in Huntington Beach and state beaches at Bolsa Chica, Corona del Mar, Doheny State Beach, Capistrano Beach Park and San Clemente State Beach.


There are about 40 public beaches from San Diego to Sonoma that have fire rings, according to a tally provided by supporters.


William Burke, a highly vocal foe of the fire rings, resigned his position April 12 on the California Coastal Commission after two Republican lawmakers questioned whether his dual role – he also is the chair of the AQMD board – constituted a conflict of interest.


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