Smith: Maybe Disney has the solution

What a difference a few thousand miles can make. In Newport Beach, some locals are trying to ban the use of the beach fire rings, citing the potential health hazards from the smoke. In Florida, they're practically begging us to start beach fires.

Last October, the city of Newport Beach sent a letter to the California Coastal Commission that included, according to the Daily Pilot report, "… a letter from South Coast Air Quality Management District Health Effects Officer Jean Ospital saying that wood smoke can contribute to higher levels of 'ambient particulate matter,' which can, in turn, cause a number of respiratory health problems."

I won't be the first person to state that many of the residents who are pushing to get rid of the rings moved into the area long after the rings were installed more than 40 years ago. The debate reminds me of the controversy that Disneyland faced several years ago when residents around the theme park complained about the smoke from the fireworks show that is presented about 230 times a year. Complaints arose over howling dogs, wafts of smoke and showers of ash, which land on anything horizontal, including swimming pools, rooftops, lawns, cars, sidewalks and even pedestrians.

While the Disneyland debate was raging, it was pointed out that most of the residents had moved into the area long after the fireworks program began and they chose to live there anyway. There has probably been more resident turnover around Disneyland than in Newport Beach because many of the residents around the park live in apartments and are more transitory than homeowners.

Nonetheless, on July 3, 2010, the Los Angeles Times reported that, "After 10 years of research, Disneyland in 2004 introduced what it called an innovative launching system that uses compressed air instead of black powder. The result is safer, quieter pyrotechnics that emit less smoke and pollution."

Disney has a history of sensitivity of the quality of life for residents near the park. Before the first rider ever experienced the thrill of hurtling down the steep track of its California Screamin' roller coaster, they installed half-tubes on the drops to help keep the screaming Californians from creating noise pollution.

But, Disneyland is not Newport Beach and it is certainly not Daytona, Fla., where beach fires are touted as a tourist attraction. There, you don't even need a ring, you can just set up bonfire right in the sand.

On the Florida edition of, folks are encouraged to start beach fires.

"All it takes is a permit, some dry wood and starter kindling. And don't forget a good lighter. In some locations, there are even beach fire pits you can use.

"You may even choose to set up your bonfire not too far from some of our fantastic area oceanfront restaurants so you can have the best of both worlds."

Yes, you read that correctly: Down in Daytona, they're urging beach fire starters to set up shop near restaurants. Kinda puts a new spin on "smoked meat."

So, one city wants fire rings to go and another one promotes them. In cases such as this, the best thing to do is what we should be doing with more of our urban challenges: Present the problem to Disney and let them solve it.

STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and a freelance writer. Send story ideas to

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