Lights Out for Beach Fire Pits

Bonfire parties at San Diego beaches will soon be out of the question. The city of San Diego began removing 186 concrete fire pits from its beaches and shoreline parks Wednesday night.

The fire pits were located in Mission bay and on the beaches of La Jolla, Mission Beach, Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach.

Removal of the fire pits was one of the steps approved by the City Council to close the city's $43 million budget gap. It cost the city's Park and Recreation Department $173,000 a year to service the fire pits. That cost was primarily due to the need to clean the fire pits of ash and debris at least once a week.

Over the past 10 years, the number of fire pits on San Diego beaches has gradually declined. In 1990, the city had 450 rings; however many were removed in response to resident complaints and budget reductions. In fiscal year 2004, the City Council reduced the number of fire rings from 300 to 150; since that time, approximately 35 were replaced.

The ordinance approved by the Council on Tuesday eliminates the beach fire program in its entirety.

It is a misdemeanor violation to build a fire on the sand or in any device other than a portable barbecue. The maximum penalty is $1,000 for each individual involved in the building or use of the illegal fire.

City workers began removing the fire pits Wednesday on Fiesta Island. On average, 18 fire pits will be removed daily. The process is expected to be complete within two weeks.

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