San Diego Union-Tribune

La Jolla Town Council backs beach fire ban

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The La Jolla Town Council has voted to support other La Jolla groups' efforts to have San Diego ban wood and charcoal beach fires in favor of those fueled by propane.

At its meeting online earlier this month, the Town Council heard from Dorie DeFranco, a resident of the Barber Tract neighborho­od, who said “the beach communitie­s have been seeing many illegal beach fires and other bad behavior that goes along with them.”

The fires present pollution and safety hazards, said DeFranco, a member of a beach team task force with members of other communitie­s.

San Diego Fire-Rescue Battalion Chief David Pilkterton addressed the council's questions about fire safety.

Currently, beach fires are prohibited between midnight and 5 a.m. and must be contained to city-provided fire rings or to portable barbecues or similar devices. Fuel must be “clean, dry wood,” charcoal or propane.

Air pollution from wood fire smoke “is a complex mixture of gases and fine particles … causing burning eyes, runny nose, bronchitis and asthma attacks,” DeFranco said.

She said the city prohibits smoking on the beach, “yet wood smoke is 12 times more carcinogen­ic than tobacco smoke.” U.S. Environmen­tal Protection Agency researcher­s have estimated the lifetime cancer risk from wood smoke to be 12 times greater than from a similar amount of cigarette smoke. “Things like trash and plastic and Styrofoam are also being burned,” DeFranco said.

Fires often are built directly in the sand, she said, and left to smolder, causing injury if walked on with bare feet.

The solution, DeFranco contended, is not a total ban on beach fires but limiting them to propane only.

Propane fires, she said, would eliminate pollution and many of the burn risks. “It doesn't take away from the beach fire experience and it provides fireside enjoyment.”

The Town Council voted to support efforts by the La Jolla Community Planning Associatio­n, La Jolla Parks & Beaches, La Jolla Shores Associatio­n and Barber Tract Neighborho­od Associatio­n to ban wood and charcoal fires at certain local beaches.

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