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SCAQMD Releases Revised Proposal For Regulating Beach Bonfires


June 12, 2013

Public Meetings Planned for This Week

The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) has released a new proposal for open burning at Southland beaches that will allow cities to prohibit fire pits in their jurisdictions, and demonstrate clean-burning fire pits.  

Public meetings are planned for June 13 and June 14 to solicit feedback from residents on the new proposal.  In addition, SCAQMD’s Governing Board has set a July 12 public hearing to consider adopting the plan.

“We listened to numerous comments from residents, local governments and businesses about regulation of beach fires,” said Barry Wallerstein, SCAQMD’s executive officer.

“We also conducted scientific testing of beach fires’ impact on air quality in nearby communities.  We believe this new approach will better protect public health while allowing beach fires to continue as a popular Southern California pastime.” 

Under the revised proposal, cities could immediately prohibit beach fires within their jurisdictions if they make a determination based on state law that the fires are causing a nuisance.

SCAQMD also will commence demonstration projects with one or more beach cities of clean-fueled fire pits using natural gas or propane fuel as a replacement for wood fires.

“These clean-fueled fire pits could be the wave of the future, transforming smoky beach environments into more healthy spaces,” Wallerstein said.

Under the proposal, effective March 1, 2014, SCAQMD would continue to allow beach bonfires in Los Angeles and Orange Counties as long as:

  • Beach fire pits are located at least 700 feet from the nearest residence; or
  • Fire pits are at least 100 feet apart (If a city has 15 or fewer fire pits, they must be separated by at least 50 feet.); and
  • Air quality for fine particulates (PM2.5) in coastal areas is not forecast to exceed 100 on the Air Quality Index. (This is expected to occur infrequently under special meteorological conditions.)

Under the new plan, SCAQMD also would work cooperatively with local and state agencies to develop outreach and compliance programs to help raise awareness of the potential health impacts of wood smoke, and to prevent burning of inappropriate materials in the pits such as treated wood.

SCAQMD will conduct two public meetings this week on the plan:

Thursday, June 13 – 5:30 p.m.   Friday, June 14 – 5:30 p.m.
Hyatt Regency  Embassy Suites
1107 Jamboree Rd. 1440 E. Imperial Avenue
Newport Beach  El Segundo

Preliminary results from air monitoring at area beaches, ongoing since late March, indicate that smoke from beach fires is impacting air quality in nearby residential areas.  However, smoke disperses and is diluted the farther it travels from a fire pit.

An air quality model indicates that the concentration of particulate pollution, the key harmful ingredient in wood smoke, decreases by about 98 percent at a distance of 700 feet from a fire pit, SCAQMD officials said. Likewise, requiring a minimum distance of 100 feet between pits will decrease concentrations by 50 percent to 75 percent compared to areas where fire pits are located closer to each other.

Wood smoke contains particulate pollution (PM2.5) cancer-causing chemicals as well as common combustion pollutants such as nitrogen oxides.  Numerous health studies during wildfires, and in communities where large amounts of wood or other biomass is burned, show that wood smoke causes respiratory irritation and an increase in hospital admissions for respiratory problems. 

SCAQMD is the air pollution control agency for Orange County and major portions of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.


This page updated: June 14, 2013