Fire rings supporters ask for injunction

A nonprofit group hoping to preserve wood-burning fire rings wants the Orange County Superior Court to stop the city of Newport Beach from removing them until a lawsuit on the matter is resolved.

The Friends of the Fire Rings announced its request for an injunction Monday in response to the Newport Beach City Council's Nov. 26 decision to reduce the number of wood-burning fire rings and participate in a feasibility study that looks at fire pits fueled by natural gas or propane instead of wood.

The group in November filed suit against the South Coast Air Quality Management District in an attempt to strike down parts of regulations the agency approved in July. Those rule changes include requiring a 700-foot buffer between fire pits and homes and limited use on days with poor air quality, and gave additional authority to cities to ban the rings.

The Friends of the Fire Rings argues that the AQMD's regulations were not created in response to scientific research on air quality, but instead as a political compromise.

"Despite public outcry against the removal of the fire rings, the California Coastal Commission's clear indication that all fire rings should remain as a low-cost public recreation activity, and questions about the AQMD's science, Newport Beach City Council remains on its course to remove as many fire rings as they can get away with," the group wrote in a news release sent Monday.

The council previously voted to take steps to eliminate its 60 fire rings, but has since begun working with the AQMD on a pilot program that would replace some of them with versions fueled by natural gas or propane.

Newport residents have long complained about the smell and smoke caused by burning wood on the beaches and the threat of carcinogens released by burning wood.

Council members agreed during a November meeting that the 27 wood-fueled rings in Big Corona would be reduced to 12 and the 33 near the Balboa Pier to 15.

"Remarkably, Mayor [Keith] Curry and the Newport Beach City Council members have continued to show their blatant disregard for the wishes of their constituents and the numerous problems associated with their decision-making process by moving forward to alter California's beach fire rings under the auspices of health," Friends member Doug Swardstrom said in the release.

Curry was not available for comment.

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