Bill to Protect Beach Bonfires in Southern California Moves Ahead

The Assembly on Monday approved a bill that would throw up bureaucratic hurdles to the South Coast Air Quality Management District's attempts to restrict beach bonfires along the coast of Los Angeles and Orange counties.

The SCAQMD in July approved various restrictions on fire pits on Southland beaches, a move that drew criticism for many Orange County leaders, who have turned to state legislation to curtail the clampdown set to begin in March.

The bill would compel the SCAQMD to work with local cities and coastal oversight agencies such as the Coastal Commission when it attempts to reduce fire rings "to make sure there is no loss of beach access or harm to the local economy," said one of the bill's sponsors, Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D- Fullerton.

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Quirk-Silva acknowledged the bill's language is "kind of vague," but has been evolving as it has gone through various committees. State lawmakers, Quirk-Silva said, would prefer the SCAQMD work out a compromise instead.

"We don't necessarily need to be involved," Quirk-Silva said. "I would rather see a local resolution."

The state Senate will now consider the legislation.

The SCAQMD in July voted to require fire pits be kept at least 700 feet away from the nearest residence. The fire rings could be closer than 700 feet to homes if the rings are at least 100 feet apart from each other -- or at least 50 feet apart if a city has 15 or fewer rings.

The SCAQMD also would restrict the use of bonfires on high-pollution days. The agency also plans to implement pilot programs for fire rings powered by natural or propane gas instead of wood.

Critics of beach bonfires complain of pollution, but supporters cite the tradition.

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