Bonfires vs. air quality

May 1st, 2013 | by James Folmer | Comments

Growing up in San Diego, the beach was like a second home to me. I learned to swim the bay next to the Silver Strand. Before I could drive, my buddy and I would hitch a ride with my older brother and hang out at Ocean Beach while he worked at grocery story. Once I got my 1968 Mustang, beach trips along the coast from Coronado to Del Mar were routine – as were bonfires once it got dark.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District is considering a ban on bonfires at the beach. This is inspired by the same controls approved two years ago on wood-burning fireplaces between November and February – the months when a crackling fire sounds like a good idea.
The district says the 1.4 million fireplaces and other wood-burning devices emit an average of 6 tons of PM 2.5 a day. That’s more than fine particulate matter than generated by all the power plants in the Southland.
The proposed limits on bonfires has sparked a panic in beach communities who are concerned about the economic impact. Matthew Harper, mayor pro tem of Huntington Beach, wrote to The Desert Sun urging us to urge Riverside County Supervisor John Benoit to vote against the amendment to Rule 444. Benoit serves on the district board.
Huntington Beach has 200 fire rings, most of which have been there for 60 years. The city stands to lose $1 million in revenue from parking fees and the sale of bonfire supplies.
“The bonfires that warm us from the winds that blow cold salt air up and over the beaches is an experience that should be enjoyed today and allowed for future generations,” Harper writes.
While this issue is being debated as a coastal issue, the Salton Sea Recreation Area has 2,000 campsites and almost all of them have fire rings.
With fireplaces, the Air Quality Management District offers $125 discounts for homeowners to convert wood-burning fireplaces with units that burn natural gas. That wouldn’t quite work on the beach.
The Desert Sun is considering an editorial on the subject. What do you think? Should we urge Supervisor Benoit to oppose the ban? I want the air we breathe to be as clean as possible. But I hate to think a world where we can never again roast marshmallows at a bonfire with family and friends on the beach.

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