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San Diego City Council Could Extinguish Some Bonfire Beach Traditions

The city's environmental committee is looking into the health and safety hazards caused by beachside fire pits and bonfires

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While San Diegans are celebrating the unofficial start of summer, a San Diego City Council committee is considering whether some bonfire traditions at our area beaches are fair to neighbors.

The council's Environment Committee voted unanimously last week to consider some new rules on bonfires to help with air quality and beach safety concerns.

Mission Beach resident Cathy Ives knows those concerns all too well.

She lives about a block away from the beach where the fires burn and smoke comes wafting over her home.

"It's deadly! It’s worse than sitting behind a diesel truck. I mean it causes huge health repercussions," she said.

That's just part of the reason why the Environment Committee is looking at regulating beachside bonfires.

Beachgoers would only be allowed to build wood fires in the city-provided concrete fire pits. They would no longer be allowed to bring their own pits and set up in the sand.

Kenneth Hunrichs says bonfires on the beach were a tradition that he's grown up with, so he opposes the possible ban.

"There doesn't seem to be a real reason to ban beach fires if people are responsible with the fires that they're using, and prohibiting the use of a private container where the city is not providing those on our beaches is just is unnecessary and overly restrictive," said Hunrichs.

But lifeguards say not everyone is responsible.

Mission Beach resident Mike Hornung has seen the dangers they're concerned about while walking his dog.

"A lot of times people don't put them out and then they smoke and stay hot, even if they bury them in the sand, and you can step on them. So it becomes a real danger," said Hornung.

Ives has documented the problems. As part of Don't Trash Mission Beach, she spends her days taking pictures of the beach mess she cleans up.

"I know the proponents of this ban are claiming there's air quality issues and maybe in some areas there are where smoke collects, but the hot embers being stepped on, I think is pretty easily resolved by the city providing the right equipment at our beaches," said Hornung.

The city of San Diego removed more than 180 fire pits more than a decade ago to help with budget issues. They weren’t replaced.

Now they're hoping by only allowing bonfires in the remaining pits, they'll help improve air and safety concerns.

The proposed ban would also include wood and coal-fired BBQ pits for cooking, but propane grills would be allowed.

The proposal has to come before the full City Council before it can move forward.

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