Hundreds turn out to support fire rings

Politicians and residents gathered Sunday to cook hot dogs and roast marshmallows at Huntington State Beach in a message to air-quality regulators that they wouldn't give up the city's fire rings without a fight.

Hundreds, including politicians like organizer Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach), showed up to oppose the South Coast Air Quality Management District's proposed ban on fire rings in Orange and Los Angeles counties.

"The community is completely united in keeping our fire rings," Allen said. "This is who we are in California. This is what we do."

He said 30,000 have signed an online petition supporting the fire rings. Another petition circulated at Sunday's event.

"It would be tragic if an unelected body like the AQMD takes away our fire rings that have been a tradition for years," Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa) said. "If they take that away, what's next?"

U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher shared Mansoor's concerns.

"It's not an unelected official's job to tell us what to do with our lives," he said. "It's the people in government that should be taking orders from the people and not the other way around. [The proposed fire ring ban] represents one of the most blatant examples of unelected bureaucracy trying to give orders, trying to change our way of life, expecting that we're just going to comply."

The fire rings' fate came up after the city of Newport Beach submitted a request to the California Coastal Commission in August to remove 60 fire rings near Balboa Pier and at Corona del Mar State Beach because of possible negative health impacts to residents.

AQMD caught wind after Newport used the district's Rule 444 as an argument, which would allow the city to remove the rings because of the smoke it generates and its adverse effects on people's health.

At a public hearing in March, Huntington Beach city officials said the wanted to keep their about 500 fire pits for financial reasons and asked that the hearing about the ban be postponed.

After Huntington Beach supplied the district with a letter of correspondence from the Coastal Commission, AQMD agreed to push their decision until June 7.

Huntington Beach Councilman Joe Carchio was happy to see the turnout at the state beach and expected the community to band together to support their fire rings.

"Just step back and stay out of the way," he said about AQMD. "Let Newport Beach do what they want to do and let Huntington Beach do what they want to do. Let there be local control. We don't need bureaucrats telling us what to do."

Carchio said he doesn't know where it will end should the AQMD decide to ban them.

"It's all about local control. It's not just fire pits," he said. "Where does it stop? If they take fire pits away from the beaches, do they go to regional parks next? Do they go to your backyards and barbecues?"

Huntington Beach resident Frank Marshall lives off Pacific Coast Highway a few miles from the event and said he doesn't think AQMD's suggestion to snuff the rings is the best way to reduce pollution.

"Come on, 10 of these [fire rings] equal to the pollution of one car per day? That's ridiculous," he said at the rally. "I say let them have it."

Miss Fountain Valley 2013 Aimee Le said the fire rings is a great place for family and friends to bond. She's even used them to burn old homework assignments at the end of the college semester.

"It's cold at night, but it's nice to have the warmth of the fire to be around and you really get to bond with the people you care about," she said.

Twitter: @acocarpio

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