With danger of wildfires at hazardous levels, Laguna Beach is cracking down hard on errant smokers in the wilderness.
The City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to fine smokers in open spaces on the spot.
Smokers in hazardous areas will be fined without the customary courtesy cautions. Lighting fires in the open space also will merit an immediate citation.
“It only makes sense in a drought,” Mayor Toni Iseman said when the proposal was first discussed at the June 5 council meeting.
Smoking and open fires in hazardous areas are already prohibited by the uniform fire code that has been adopted into the city’s municipal code, but Fire Chief Mike Macey has determined that the immediate danger to public health and safety justifies skipping the usual warning for a first offense.
Violators will be fined $100 for a first offense, $500 for a second offense and $1,000 for the third strike.
Additional ashtrays will be installed at the trail heads to open space hiking areas.
“This is the worst fire season ever in California,” Stop Tobacco Abuse of Minors Pronto organizer Jim Walker told the council at the June 5 meeting. “I hope you lead the County of Orange in these emergency steps.”
Iseman had proposed an emergency ordinance banning smoking in open space area and trail heads at the meeting. She also wanted the ban extended to public parks.
“It appears the city already has the authority to prohibit smoking in wild lands, but not in parks,” City Manager Ken Frank said.
“You see butts in parks and on streets,” Iseman said. “It’s amazing.”
Tuesday’s proposal will not include a park ban, which Iseman said she would submit as a separate item on a future agenda.