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In the Pipeline: Meeting emphasizes it is right to let H.B. keep fire pits

June 20, 2013|By Chris Epting
  • Claire Epting, 12 years ago, enjoys a Huntington Beach bonfire. After numerous bonfires over the years, she has not shown any ill health effects.
Claire Epting, 12 years ago, enjoys a Huntington Beach… (Chris Epting, HB…)

As you may have heard, the South Coast Air Quality Management District is leaning toward a recommendation that would essentially allow Huntington Beach to maintain its fire rings and Newport Beach and Corona del Mar to get rid of theirs.

While this is by no means a done deal, it is certainly encouraging and amplifies the need for all interested parties to attend the July 12 meeting in Diamond Bar to voice their opinions before the final vote.

The AQMD apparently is leaning this way because its initial monitoring revealed what many of us have thought all along: There simply is no great health hazard being caused by the fire rings in Huntington Beach.

As for the situation in the Newport area, it's hard to say. Does it seem sort of odd that the proposed amendment would not allow fire pits within 700 feet of houses, when the homes of the complaining beachfront property owners fall within yards of that limit?

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A little.

That said, the AQMD held a public meeting in Newport Beach last week. Out of all of these meetings I've been to, this was the most fascinating. It pointed out very clearly the overwhelming support for the fire pits, and not just in Huntington Beach but in the Newport area as well.

After a brief AQMD presentation on its findings, the wild night got underway.

Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) gave a rousing, firm address on behalf of the city.

"Very simply, we reject all of the AQMD's recommendations," he said. "Our message is loud, it is clear: Our bonfire rings are here to stay."

The crowd went wild. (Recently, California legislators adopted a nonbinding resolution written by Allen. It describes the fire rings' traditional and cultural significance to the state.)

Huntington Beach Mayor Pro Tem Matthew Harper and Costa Mesa Mayor Jim Righeimer also spoke passionately, and factually, about saving the fire rings, again, to rousing applause.

Kathleen Staunton, the district director and representative for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach), delivered an equally powerful speech that also brought big applause. The coalition put together by Huntington Beach city officials is extremely impressive and made quite an impact.

It also emphasized, glaringly, that Newport Beach, the city that started all of this, did not have one single official speaker. Not one. Do they not know what this means to people? (Newport Beach Councilwoman Leslie Daigle, who wrote a terrific editorial supporting the rings, was in attendance but did not speak.)

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