Newport Beach and Huntington Beach React Differently to Fire Pit Pollution Findings

Call it "A Tale of Two City Takeaways:" Newport Beach and Huntington Beach's mayors, at opposite ends on whether to remove fire rings along their beaches, heard--and reacted differently to--state data indicating what's emitted from a pit over one evening equals the pollution spewed by a heavy duty diesel truck driving 564 miles.

Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido, who sits on the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) board, arranged a private meeting of several Orange County mayors Wednesday to digest agency data on fire-pit pollution.

Keith Curry, the mayor of Newport Beach, which got the ring-ban ball rolling due to resident complaints about the smoke, found the AQMD data supports his city's position.

"This is the first time we've ever been able to see any scientific data," Curry reportedly told City News Service. "I commend the AQMD who have laid out a fair assessment of the data."

But Connie Boardman, the mayor of Huntington Beach, where a line has figuratively been drawn in the sand to protect that city's pits, noted the AQMD data indicates Surf City's smoke is below the level that is considered unhealthy for those who are vulnerable to it.

And you get a sense she's prepared to release the hounds over any findings that do not support her city's desire to keep the fire rings. "The city wants a chance to look over the data and have it peer reviewed by our experts,'' she said. O.J.'s defense couldn't have put it better. If the smoke don't choke, you can't revoke!

She also hedged her bets should her experts ultimately fail at whitewashing harmful health data, saying, "If there are health risks to our residents there are a lot of solutions between nothing and banning the fire rings completely."

Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairman Shawn Nelson, who sits on the AQMD board and also attended the meeting, raised the possibility of replacing traditional wood-burning fire rings with propane-fueled flames. Boardman noted propane tanks could pose problems but was open to exploring the idea.

Curry, meanwhile, wanted it known that Newport Beach did not solicit AQMD intervention to support the city's position to remove it rings. Which brings up the one thing he and Boardman agree on: banning or keeping the pits should be up to individual cities rather than being imposed on them by state agencies.

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