Byline: Taylor Hill
NEPWORT BEACH — After getting a unanimous approval from Newport Beach City Council members May 14, the city’s application to the California Coastal Commission to remove 60 beachside fire rings for bonfires was halted, with commission staff asking for more information on the fire pits before a decision is made.
The city cited “health and safety concerns” as the main reasons for removing the fire pits at Big Corona State Beach and pits near the Balboa Pier, but Coastal Commission staff sent a letter to the city asking for details on exactly how the popular fire rings cause health and safety issues. It has asked the city to cite specific study data to prove the rings contribute to health hazards.
In its initial application letter sent to the commission May 14, the city claimed the fire pits could cause potential ill health effects to beach-goers and nearby residents due to the smoke and particulate matter from the fires, and raised the issue of hot ashes left in the pits that could burn beach-goers.
As the city works on preparing the additional information requested by the Coastal Commission staff, the fire rings are scheduled to stay in place through summer. The city expects a final decision to still be months away.
Newport Beach has concrete fire rings on the beach in two areas: There are 27 fire rings located on Corona del Mar State Beach and 33 fire rings located near the Balboa Pier. The Coastal Commission also raised the issue of whether or not the city would have the authority to remove the fire rings located on state property at Big Corona State Beach.
The fire rings are often utilized by tourists coming to enjoy a night at the beach, and nearby residents have complained that the extensive and often daily wood smoke released in the area could cause serious health damage.
Back in February, Newport Beach Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission reviewed the beach fire ring issue and examined options for remedying neighbors’ concerns. After hearing public comments from local residents and others concerned about the perceived health impact related to the burning of wood and other materials in the fire rings, the commission voted 4-3 to recommend that the city council act to remove all beach fire rings located in Newport Beach.
A group called “Save the Pits” has been founded to preserve the fire rings and has circulated a petition to keep them. It has set up a website — savethepits.com — to rally support for keeping the fire rings.