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Removal of Newport Beach fire rings probably months away

March 15, 2012 |  8:54 am

Newport Beach voted to remove its popular fire rings
There's still time to have one last bonfire before Newport Beach removes 60 fire rings from local beaches because of safety and air quality concerns.

It will take several months –- and California Coastal Commission approval –- before the rings are gone, the Corona del Mar Today reported.

Newport Beach City Manager Dave Kiff met with staff Wednesday to discuss the next steps after the City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to remove the fire rings.

Removing the rings would only take a couple of days and would be done by a regular beach maintenance crew. Corona del Mar has 27 concrete fire rings, the Balboa Pier area 33.

However, Coastal Commission permission probably will take months, coastal staff said.

The council's vote followed an hourlong public hearing, with most of the 29 speakers testifying in support of removing the rings.

"Before I go to sleep at night, I put my face in front of the purifier to remember what clean air smells like," said Charles Farrell, a Balboa Peninsula resident who said he has 15 fire pits directly in front of his home. "It's the plastic smell that makes me sick.... I am a victim of slow asphyxiation."

A lifelong Newport Beach resident and Hoag Hospital pulmonologist, Ryan Klein, told council members the smoke aggravates asthma and other chronic lung diseases. Some residents of Breakers Drive above Big Corona said family members could not visit because the fire ring smoke aggravated their lung diseases. And others expressed concern about crime, injuries and floating embers that could cause a fire.

Other residents expressed desire to keep the rings, perhaps with limits on what kind of fuel is burned or with a reservation and payment system that would pay for fire ring-specific park rangers.

Sisters Sophia, 11, and Vanessa Koop, 9, spoke in favor of keeping fire rings.

"We like the fire rings," Sophia said.

"Say we go swimming and it gets cold -- how will we warm up?" Vanessa said.

Longtime fire-ring supporter Nadine Turner said removing the fire rings would affect non-Newport Beach residents who probably were unaware the matter was being considered.

"It's just very sad," she said Wednesday. "Newport Beach is not what it used to be. It's turning into a country club. Pretty soon the only people who will be able to enjoy the beachfront are those who live there. I'm looking at the whole thing and asking, 'Do I still want to stay here?' "

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-- Amy Senk, Times Community News

Photo: Anaheim Hills residents Hasti Mofidi, left, and Kimia Kashvardoost, both 12, cook marshmallows as they celebrate the Persian New Year at a Corona del Mar State Beach fire ring. Credit: Kevin Chang / Times Community News

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