Newport Beach bonfires under fire; commission weighs in

Newport Beach bonfires under fire; commission weighs in
In this March 1, 2013, photo, James Hughes, a student at Irvine Valley College, adds fuel to the fire at Corona Del Mar Beach in Newport Beach, Calif. (AP Photo/Los Angeles Times, Robert Gauthier)

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The California Coastal Commission will decide Wednesday whether beachgoers will continue to be able to laze around bonfires at Newport Beach.

Some beachfront residents complain that smoke from the fires is a nuisance and, worse, a health hazard.

The commission is meeting Wednesday to discuss Newport Beach's request for a permit to remove all its fire rings — 33 near the Balboa Pier and 27 on a stretch of Corona del Mar State Beach.

Those who want to get rid of the fire rings say sometimes smoke gets so thick it sets off alarms in nearby homes.

Opponents of the plan say fires on the sand are a Southern California tradition. An online petition to keep the fire rings has drawn nearly 6,000 responses.

"Unless you purchased your house prior to 1940 you knew what you were getting into," David Ruiz, a regular user of Balboa's fire pits, told the Los Angeles Times. "Bonfires and summer grilling at the beach — it goes along with the territory."

A report by the commission's staff recommends the fire rings stay because it would rob the public of access. It cites a state Coastal Act provision to encourage and protect "lower cost" recreational facilities.

City officials have submitted scientific studies on the harmful health effects of wood smoke and the particulates it contains, but has not measured air quality on or around the beaches where bonfires are allowed, the Times said.