City seeks state approval to remove fire rings

Newport Beach officials could be submitting an application to the California Coastal Commission early this week that seeks permission to remove the city's 60 beach fire rings.

City staff has reviewed details of the application with commission staff, said city spokeswoman Tara Finnigan, and will be delivering the application soon. A commission staff member has said it could take months to review the matter after it comes before him because the beaches are public and the fire rings are considered a public amenity.

Before the City Council's March vote, 29 speakers testified about fire rings. Most were against them, with many citing concerns about the health risks of smoke from burning wood.

Almost immediately, an online petition linked at was started to stop the removal of the rings. The website says it was created to serve as a "central location for news and updates on saving a special part" of the community's history.

The petition had more than 3,880 signatures as of Monday afternoon.

The discussions about removing beach fire rings date back to 2009, but the City Council ultimately tabled the issue because it was taking too much staff time at a point when budget constraints were becoming a serious issue.

Then in September 2011, then-Councilwoman Nancy Gardner suggested that the Parks, Beaches & Recreation Commission study the issue again, partly because of a claim filed against Huntington Beach after a boy was burned on a fire ring there. The commission voted 4 to 3 in February to recommend removing the rings.

During Saturday's Walk with the Mayor in Corona del Mar, several residents asked Mayor Gardner about fire rings as they passed them on Big Corona. She said she understood arguments for and against them and had no idea what the Coastal Commission would decide.

The rings cost about the city about $50,000 each year to clean and maintain, Gardner said.

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