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Mailbag: ‘Mean-spirited’ fire pits column overlooked health hazards

Re “Wu: Fire pit removal illustrates lack of conservatism,” March 25:

Your credibility is at stake if you have edited the above column, which erroneously portrays the Newport Beach City Council and Corona del Mar residents as being guided by racist or intrusive government motives.

If Jack Wu had properly researched the subject, he would find that:

1.) Many of the residents affected by the toxic smoke from smoldering fires were around before the expanded use of fire rings, that the rings were very few in number and, moreover, they consisted of impromptu pits dug into the sand. Only after the expansion in numbers of government employees (which would be antithetical to Wu’s claimed Republican ideals) did the neat rows of some 27 concrete structures appear. Further aesthetic desecration occurred with the more recent arrival of the 27 unsightly companion trash containers.


2) The ethnic composition of beach visitors has not changed since the 1960s, only the numbers. The welcome daytime use by Latino families is easily distinguished from those fire ring users who seek the cover of darkness. Have Wu check the time of day and names recorded on the myriad police reports.

3) The alleged sentiments of former councilman Dick Nichols (not “Nick Nichols”) should not be used to stereotype residents — an insinuation employed by your rookie columnist who substituted his own conjecture for facts in a feeble effort to indict those he picks on.

Wu somehow tried to weave in his opposition to “yachts” (not boats) that he laments are polluters worse than the toxic smoke creators. Tolerated, of course, by our city, whose leaders therefore are hypocritical and must be anything but “conservative.”

Wu goes on with a non sequitur about limitation on parking places in Corona del Mar, as if that would somehow be eased by retention of an attractive nuisance in the form of fire pits.


Wu’s assertions play right into the Democrats’ class warfare games and that will make it easy to distinguish with whom he sides, should he ever make the mistake of seeking political office in an area where his writings reveal the perversity of his claimed political affiliation. Best that Wu switch to the party that brought us slavery, opposition to the Civil Rights Act and the KKK, among other distinguishing identities of the Democrats.

As a resident for more than half a century of old Corona del Mar, I resent him for trying to malign those of us whose intentions are to elevate the quality of life for all those who both live in and visit our beautiful and well-governed city.

Dean Wilson

Corona del Mar


Emotion trumped health

It seems very clear that Jack Wu is more mean-spirited than well-informed. He is quite adept with sarcasm, however.

I do not know what this “conservative,” who ran as a Democrat in Irvine, has for an agenda, but it certainly is not health and safety. Let’s start with my right as an individual not to have known carcinogenic smoke forced upon me, my neighbors, those working in the area or the “innocents” visiting the beach.


Science and research, as well as medical testimony, support the council’s decision. The decision was not made nor should it be rescinded based on “noise,” how many people show up to speak or potential votes. The decision should be made on everyone’s God-given right to safety and opportunity to enjoy good health.

Now for the facts that Wu cavalierly seems to dismiss.

The Air Quality Management District, pulmonologists (one testified at the council meeting), American Lung Assn. and the Environmental Protection Agency have all stated that it is extremely dangerous to breathe smoke from wood fires, more so than cigarettes! This may be news to Wu, but wood-burning fireplaces are no longer allowed to be built in new or remodeled homes in the four southern counties of California.

Why? Because the smoke they produce is considered dangerous. In an area of about two CdM residential lots, there are 27 fire pits producing fires significantly larger than any residential fireplace, 360 days a year! Restricting operations is like cutting back to a pack a day. It doesn’t cure the problem.

As for Wu’s not-so-thinly veiled racial accusations, no one is suggesting limiting who may come to the beach. All are welcome, and I am very certain that the removal will not result in any less attendance, because 1.5 million people were on Big Corona last year. Not all could have used the fire pits.

Now about the ridiculous notion that the fire pits have been there for years, and that the folks who have moved there since their installation should have known better. Wu, apparently you are not old enough to remember when we all thought that asbestos was the miracle insulation and a fire retardant!

You will find, as you mature, that we continue to learn more about our environment and necessary measures that we must implement to prevent disease and serious health risks. Now, Wu, to me it seems that calling our council members “bleeding heart liberals” and other derogatory names again demonstrates that you must have some other agenda, because informed citizens would deem our council reasonable and responsible.

Oh yes, and one more thing: I really wouldn’t advise that you allow your kids or friends to drink the baywater or eat the “oil-soaked” sand, either, or does that make me an “elitist?” Maybe your next column should be better researched.


John Hamilton

Newport Beach


Cigars worse than fire pits

I read with sadness the Newport Beach City Council’s decision to remove the fire pits. We have enjoyed years of family memories, and no one has gone home coughing. We sit away from the smoke.

How much better it would be to ban smoking on city streets and in common shopping areas, knowing how harmful secondhand smoke is for us. This goes especially for cigar smokers, who light up in public places, probably because their wives won’t allow it in the home.

Last time I walked Balboa Island, a thoughtless cigar smoker was billowing it out as he strolled, not even aware of the damage he left in his wake. I happened to be passing him by, and it filled my mouth, throat and lungs. It left me bent over, coughing and spitting out the taste.

Elizabeth Broedlow

Corona del Mar


Wu’s rant dangerous

Wu, your effort to provoke conservative outrage with knee-jerk, righteous indignation is beyond selfish and careless — it’s downright dangerous. Are you trying to wipe out half a century of progress in the understanding of human health? You should do more homework before your next rant.

It seems you want to get people all worked up about elitists, gangs and Mexicans in an effort to create a smoke screen about the real issue: Wood smoke is bad for everyone— conservatives, bleeding hearts, locals or not.

You think we’re elitists who don’t want people from out of town to go to public beaches? Nothing could be further from the truth; that’s your argument, not mine. You have more in common with (former Councilman) Dick Nichols than I.

I moved to Corona del Mar in the ‘90s, and some things have changed since the ‘60s, notably what we know about health. The American Lung Assn., the Air Quality Management District, the Environmental Protection Agency and researchers around the planet all want you to know that burning wood is bad for human health. Not only does wood smoke contain known carcinogens, much like tobacco smoke, but it’s well known and accepted that even short-term exposure aggravates lung disease and triggers asthma attacks.

Did you ever consider that the populists you so lazily criticize might have a moral and legal obligation to make public beaches accessible for everyone? You want to share your conservative outrage, Wu. I suggest you do more homework next time.

Barbara A. Peters

Newport Beach


Adams’ principal is tops

I wanted to thank you for reporter Britney Barnes’ informative article about the positive things Principal Gabe Del Real is doing for Adams Elementary School (“Adams Elementary gets money for books,” March 18). He is an exceptional leader and has implemented a number of new programs to truly emphasize the importance of math and reading to the student body, along with all of the other important academic subjects.

As a side note, my son, Stephen Mack, was set to receive an award Friday for having read more than 2 million words thus far in the school year. I believe part of the reason for Stephen reaching this goal is due to the constructive programs that Del Real has brought to Adams.

Karen Mack

Costa Mesa


Grammar and manners

Re “Advice for my friend and me,” March 17:

June Casagrande wrote that it’s just a bad idea to point out people’s language mistakes because a large number of people hate to have their mistakes pointed out.

She explained how whenever she has a friend say something like, “My parents invited Tom and I,” her best judgment tells her to keep her yap shut. She also showed how an easy litmus test is to just drop “Tom and” in order to determine whether “My parents invited I? Or my parents invited me?”

I heartily salute Casagrande’s column and appreciate her reminders of proper grammar in our daily communication. Maybe I’m one of the small minority of those who don’t mind being shown rules for proper grammar. I encourage her to feel brave in her column and to point out our grammatical errors where she can spot them.

Vyto Baipsys

Costa Mesa


Harbor basketball suspension

As a 1980 graduate of Newport Harbor High School, and a former girls basketball player for Newport Harbor, I read with equal parts dismay and disgust Steve Virgen’s story of the suspension of the NHHS boys basketball team. I hope the Daily Pilot will investigate and report fully about this story so our community might ponder the current state of youth sports.

I played on every Newport Beach parks and recreation team I could as a child at Mariners Elementary School and ended up playing basketball at Newport Harbor. Sports were much different then, or perhaps, how we viewed sports was much different then.

There were not the professional sports contacts for millions of dollars, and I don’t think many of our parents banked on us being the next sports millionaire. We played because it was fun.

My parents both worked, and their lives did not revolve around my every dribble. My parents encouraged me to play sports because I loved them more than anything. I would shoot baskets on our driveway for hours just because I loved it.

When I played at NHHS, we weren’t particularly good, and sometimes we played downright awful, but we tried. I loved my teammates and the fun we had. The best things I took away from my youth sports years were learning to work hard, being a member of a team and friendship.

The friend I made my first day on the Kaiser Knights Junior High School girls basketball team is still my best friend. More than 38 years of a friendship started on a basketball team; we have seen each other through life’s highs and lows, careers, cancer and our own families.

When my parents agreed to let me play sports, they gave me a gift that has helped me become successful in my career and life. I learned how to win and I learned how to lose and I learned how to be a member of a team.

I hope, however, as this story and situation evolves, people take a look at youth sports and ponder. Sports is the gift of fun, friendship and teamwork that you give your child to help prepare them for life’s ups and downs, because in life no one wins all the time.

Sometimes the best lessons come from losing.

Julie Wahlstedt

Costa Mesa