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Board Of Supervisors Votes To Oppose Proposed Beach Bonfire Ban

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(credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A proposed air quality regulation that would prohibit beach bonfires is being opposed by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

The board believes the matter should rather be left to the discretion of local officials.

“From the time of the beach parties of Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon, beach campfires are a low-cost, time-honored tradition and recreational pastime in the Los Angeles County area — indeed, all of Southern California,” Supervisor Don Knabe said.

Knabe’s colleagues agree, and have decided to send a letter of opposition to the South Coast Air Quality Management District, which has proposed banning open fires on both Los Angeles and Orange county beaches.

According to Knabe, fire rings have been in place at Dockweiler State Beach in the South Bay since before 1975. He emphasized evening parking revenue as evidence that both residents and visitors are willing to pay to sit around a nighttime bonfire.

Parking revenue that is generated at Dockweiler after 4 p.m. brings in nearly $570,000 annually — about 43 percent of total parking proceeds at the beach, according to Knabe.

However, AQMD officials, who are looking to tighten regional air quality regulations in order to meet stricter federal clean air standards, say that the fires are a health hazard.

AQMD has been monitoring local beaches to assess the danger.

“Wood smoke contains toxic, cancer-causing chemicals, as well as common combustion pollutants,” according to the agency’s preliminary findings. “Numerous health studies during wildfires, and in communities where large amounts of wood… is burned, show that wood smoke causes respiratory irritation and an increase in hospital admission for respiratory problems.”

Newport Beach officials, under pressure by homeowners who say they are bothered by smoke from evening beach-goers, have asked the Coastal Commission for permission to remove 60 fire rings at Corona del Mar State Beach and near Balboa Pier, which prompted the debate.

Knabe suggested that the AQMD should let Newport Beach and Los Angeles County make their own decisions.

“I would hazard a guess that Los Angeles County will choose to keep our beach fires kindled,” he said.

Knable went on to question the agency’s focus on health risks, pointing out that the district plans to exempt campfires on state park campgrounds and noted other environmental hazards near Dockweiler.

“Picking on beach fire rings due to their health risks seems to me to be one of the lesser causes of the various ailments that our residents and visitors might suffer,” Knabe said.

“We have airplanes taking off from LAX…, automobiles driving on Vista del Mar atop the Dockweiler slopes, Los Angeles City’s Hyperion waste water/sewage treatment plant immediately across the street, and both the Chevron oil refinery and Los Angeles City’s Scattergood power plant further south.”

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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