BREAKING: AQMD Board Votes 7-6 to Impose New Restrictions on Beach Bonfires

BREAKING, JULY 12, 1 P.M.: The South Coast AQMD Governing Board just voted 7-6 to impose new restrictions on beach bonfires. More details at the bottom of the next page.

ORIGINAL POST, JULY 11, 3:05 P.M.: Proponents (professional and otherwise) of beach fire rings are lighting a fire under the public to attend Friday morning's South Coast Air Quality Management District Governing Board (AQMD) meeting in Diamond Bar--or at least sway pollution regulators to keep their mitts off the pits. Results of a push poll were released this afternoon, a state legislator made a special plea to get butts into seats at the meeting and free shuttle service to Diamond Bar was previously announced. How's this for "scars" aligning: a lawsuit by a child burned when he fell into a Huntington Beach bonfire may have settled before the AQMD gathering.

The push to ban fire rings started in Newport Beach, which is also the home of Friends of the Fire Rings, "a coalition of individuals, small businesses, and families representing a variety of age, ethnic, political, and socio-economic groups, working together to save the fire rings in California."

They backed a survey done in Orange County over the last week that found there is "overwhelming support for not removing the fire rings," citing figures of 89 percent for versus 7.4 percent against. Even when isolating Newport Beach, "the ground-zero of the debate," residents there wanted the rings to stay 86 percent to 8.4 percent, according to the results.

(Keep in mind the survey was done by Lewis Consulting Group, which was founded by former slimy Orange County Republican state legislator John Lewis. It was claimed to be fielded July 2-9 among 250 Newport Beach residents and 250 Orange County residents living outside of Newport Beach. The overall margin of error is said be +/- 4.75%.)

"The survey is a devastating blow to the credibility of the petition and case put forward by the Newport Beach city staff to the Coastal Commission, and, subsequently, before the AQMD, as they have created an illusion for months now that Newport Beach residents are supportive of their petition," says Tom Sweatt, a longtime Newport Beach resident and co-leader of Friends of the Fire Rings, in a statement that accompanied the results.

"The survey proves just the opposite: Newport Beach voters disagree with their city's position by a huge margin, and are willing to assume the miniscule health risks associated with the fire rings so that the public and visitors will be able to enjoy this American tradition that has become as important to our culture as apple pie! The city staff has an obligation now to make this point home at tomorrow's AQMD hearing."

Sweatt, his group--and apparently those polled--are also no fans of the "alternate" proposal to convert wood-burning pits into clean-gas versions. "Everyone sees through the city's charade-which is being advanced with flawed and inconclusive science," Sweatt says. "The survey shows Newport Beach residents see the 'gas alternative' as 'silly and expensive' (80.4 percent) vs. those that think this is 'fair' (7.8 percent)."

The poll results, which are posted on, also reportedly show that of those surveyed, 82 percent believe the AQMD should allow all fire rings in Orange County to remain as they are today, while 9.6 percent believe only the Newport Beach fire rings should be removed and 4 percent believe all OC fire rings should be removed.

"It comes as no surprise," says Shawn Nelson, who chairs the Orange County Board of Supervisors that voted to protect the bonfires as well as the AQMD board considering their fate tomorrow. "The effort to remove fire rings from the beach in Newport is and always was an effort to remove the public from the beach and provide an exclusive domain for a very select few. Health issues are not related to this effort and have merely provided a convenient diversion."

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