New fire rules enacted

City officials on Tuesday banned tiki torches in Laguna.

The City Council adopted the 2010 California Building and Fire codes with local amendment that set stricter regulations for outdoor fires. Public safety and concerns about insurance cancellations fueled the council's decision.

"I believe the potential risk from purely decorative open flame amenities far exceeds any conceivable benefit in our fire-prone residential areas," said Diamond Crestview property owner Matt Lawson. "Keeping insurance is a priority."

Although Councilman Kelly Boyd and Fire Chief Kris Head could find no documentation of wildland fires started by portable fire pits, the council voted to ban gas- or wood-burning open pits in residential areas as of June 1. The ban on tiki torches begins immediately.

"I applaud the council for anything you can do to make us more safe," Diamond Crestview resident Loren Carroll said.

Bluebird Canyon resident Ginger Creighton said her insurance agent said her gas fire pit was not a problem.

"I am more afraid about sparking wires in a storm than fire pits," Creighton said.

Permanent gas fire pits will be permitted in low fuel modification zones with a 10 foot separation from any combustible material, structural or vegetation.

In a high fuel modification zone, the pits must be separated from combustible material by 20 feet.

Actually, there are no high or low fuel modification zones, Head said. Fuel modification zones are areas that directly abut wildlands. The fire department interprets the council designation of low modification zones as the areas that do not interface with wildlands.

Under the new regulations, permanent gas barbecues, permanent outdoor gas fireplaces and portable gas fireplaces must be 10 feet away from combustible material, regardless of the fire department zoning.

There are no restrictions on portable barbecues.

Concerns about open fires voiced by residents at the Nov.16 council meeting prompted the council to request staff to make some revisions in proposed amendments approved at the first reading of the ordinances.

"Our intention was not to inhibit someone's fun; it has to do with presenting an insurable home and an insurable neighborhood," said David Horne, chairman of the Greater Laguna Coast Fire Safe Council and a resident of Emerald Bay.

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