Commentary: Fire-ring proposal belongs on 'Arrested Development'

I've been in Newport Beach long enough to develop a love affair with the city, but not long enough to understand all of her underlying passions.

The fire-ring examination has revealed to me an overwhelming love and respect for this outdoor tradition that I didn't fully appreciate when we began our public policy review.

As emotional as this review has been, I believe it has helped the public and its representatives better understand the possible health risks associated with this time-honored ritual.

The question now for me, as a representative, is what to do about it. After considerable consideration, I've come to the conclusion that we should drop any action to restrict use of the fire rings that are such a significant part of our history and beach tradition.

The risks, in my view, are both modest and avoidable. They impact a small proportion of our population. They can be mitigated by staying away from the beach or, if you're lucky enough to live at our beaches, closing your front windows at night.

Basically, beach-users and beach-livers are capable of assessing the risk and deciding what, if anything, to do. They don't need the City Council or the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) to make that decision for them.

I suggest the council reconsider our approach to the fire rings based on the same reasons I've identified. I intend to vote no on Mayor Keith Curry's proposal to install propane fueled fire rings on our beaches. Firefighters think his proposal is lame and dangerous.

"Curry's Compromise" does away with the fire rings as we know them in exchange for hosting an AQMD pilot project that sites propane fueled fire rings on our beaches.

Propane cylinders containing explosive and lethal fuel would connect to metal tubing snaking around the sand. Firefighters tell me of the danger of invisible gas seeping from sun-cracked hoses.

Tidal surges and storm action would impact these installations. Placards posting warnings will be required as well as 24/7 surveillance by city staff to ensure safe use and guard against acts of vandalism, or even terrorism.

Recovering the costs for city staff may mean connecting meters or coin-operated canisters, like those found at a Laundromat, to the fire ring.

The mayor's proposal creates a new Newport Beach fire ring that would be the laughing stock of "Arrested Development."

LESLIE DAIGLE is a Newport Beach city councilwoman.

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