In the Pipeline: AQMD makes another run at fire rings

November 20, 2013|By Chris Epting
  • Pictures is a traditional Huntington Beach bonfire from a party in September. The South Coast Air Quality Management District is having companies companies look into developing prototype propane beach bonfire devices.
Pictures is a traditional Huntington Beach bonfire from… (Chris Epting )

I jotted something down last summer at the South Coast Air Quality Management District hearing held in Newport Beach when the fire pit issue was raging.

It was something that agency Executive Officer Barry Wallerstein said: "We do feel that the future of bonfires is propane-based."

Wallerstein even made reference that night to the fact that the AQMD employees on hand had eaten hot dogs and s'mores cooked over propane earlier in the evening.

The public was not allowed to witness whatever propane devices they used. This, at a meeting where police, fire and state park officials all explained to the AQMD panel just how clueless they thought it was to even be considering propane at the beach.

But did the panel members care? Apparently not.

I had been to enough of these meetings at that point to have heard the AQMD members talk about propane with an almost fanatical lust. They would ask every public speaker what they thought about the idea of propane. And no matter how many times people shot it down, they would just keep pushing.


No matter how many times respected public officials would point out the expense, maintenance needs and potential liability of propane lines on the beach, they were all pointedly ignored.

So when I saw the news last week that the AQMD's Technology Committee had agreed to move forward with proposals that would give about $600,000 to two companies to develop prototype propane beach bonfire devices, I can't say that I was shocked.

If we have learned anything about the AQMD in this past year, it's that it seems to have a master plan developed around propane.

I know that publicly the agency is focusing on Newport Beach as a test zone for this unpopular premise, but we know where the idea is likely to lead if the "tests" are proclaimed to be successful.

We may have beaten the AQMD down several months ago, but by no means is the agency simply going away. I believe propane will be the excuse its members use eventually to try to ban every single beach bonfire in Southern California.

Why? Because they've made it too prominent a part of all their talking points since last spring, when this issue was first forced because a few Newport Beach residents were looking to clear their beaches.

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