San Diego

Planning a Beach Bonfire? City of San Diego Imposes New Rules on Wood-Burning Beach Fires

A spokesperson for the City of San Diego told NBC 7 that SDPD, SDFD, lifeguards and Park Rangers will have the authority to cite people for not following the rule.

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One of San Diego’s favorite activities during the summer months, when the days are warmer and longer, are beach bonfires. But, soon, the experience may cost you either more money or more time.

The San Diego City Council approved a ban on wood-burning fires outside of city-provided rings on beaches. The approval came in early January, but the rule is expected to take effect in mid-February.

“You’re going from a $10 bundle of wood that will last you two-and-a-half hours to a propane tank that’s going to cost you $23, $27 to refill,” said Travis Brown.

Brown is the owner of a business called San Diego Beach Fires. They offer packages for purchase that include set-up and clean-up of everything you would need to enjoy a beach bonfire.

“From the firepit to some tiki torches for additional lighting. We bring the chairs, we also bring s'mores supplies for them to enjoy and we also have a bunch of different add-ons,” said Brown.

Brown explained that his company is in the process of pivoting to propane fire pits to align with the city’s new rules. The switch is going to be costly, but once he has all of the supplies he needs, the overall impact on business will be minimal.

He changed his website to reflect the upcoming shift. A banner on the top of the site reads, “Wood Burning Beach Fires will be banned February 15th, 2023! Book a reservation before 2/15/23 to enjoy one of the last wood-burning fires we will be providing here in San Diego! Please note: we WILL continue to provide propane field beach fires when the new laws take effect.”

“I’ve seen just as much demand in the past two months since putting that banner up,” said Brown. “If anything, I’ve seen a little bit of an increase in business since doing that.”

Despite this, Brown was initially against the ban when it was being reviewed by the city council. He explained it didn’t have as much to do with how the change could hurt his livelihood, but more so how it will affect the experience for people.

“We fought against the new regulations, but only because we knew this would have an impact on a lot of the local people who just want to come to the beach, bring their own firepit, not have to get there at 6 a.m. and claim one of these [city] firepits, especially during the summer,” said Brown.

According to the city of San Diego’s website, there are dozens of beach fire rings available for public use. The majority of the rings, just fewer than 40, are on Fiesta Island.

Under the new rules, you would either need to find one of those firepits to continue to have a wood-burning beach fire or you would need to get a propane-fueled fire pit.

Brown hopes that this does not impact the experience for locals and visitors, alike.

“The San Diego Beach Fire is just so traditional as well,” said Brown. “We didn’t want to see that tradition go away.”

A spokesperson for the city told NBC 7 that the San Diego Police Department, San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, including lifeguards, and Park Rangers will have the authority to cite people for not following the new rule. They added, “enforcement will be mainly complaint-driven and as with many instances, a combination of education and enforcement options (i.e. citations) may be used.”

NBC 7 attempted to clarify what date, specifically, the ban will go into effect. A spokesperson told NBC 7 it is likely Sunday, Feb. 12.

For more details on beach fires within the City of San Diego, click here.

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