SAN DIEGO — If you’re looking to warm up this winter with a beach bonfire, you will soon only be allowed to burn wood inside designated city fire pits following the City of San Diego’s recent clarifications on its ban of wood fires.
This comes after a city council decision Tuesday, garnering an 8-0 vote. Starting next month, when you head to the beach for a late-night bonfire, you can only burn wood in city-designated fire pits — something that has created some concern for local bonfire rental companies.
“Some of these families, 30 years, they come out here every summer and it’s their favorite thing to do, that they wait all year to do, is a wood-burning bonfire at the beach,” said Cameron Naiman, who owns local bonfire rental company, Beach and Bay Bonfires.
Long-standing traditions could soon change after the recent ban preventing beachgoers from burning wood when using their own or rented rings at San Diego beaches. However, they can burn wood if using a city-designated fire pit. It’s something local bonfire rental company owners Travis Brown and Cameron Naiman say are few and far between.
“This really restricts families who want to come out here who may not want to use our business and do this on their own,” said Travis Brown with San Diego Beach Fires. “We have around 150 fire pits at the beach. When we get to the summertime, it isn’t enough to accommodate for all the demand. What costs $7, $8, $9 for a bundle of firewood is now going to cost a family $400 for a propane fire pit.
There are exceptions to the legislation. Fires can be fueled by portable propane devices which can be used outside the city’s fire pits. Brown argues the city’s solution may be costly.
Councilmember Joe LaCava, who proposed the ordinance, says the regulations surrounding the ban were designed to clarify how it will be enforced.
“The other reason that we wanted to make a very clear distinction about fire in the rings and then propane for outside the rings is that it makes it a lot easier for enforcement,” LaCava said.
He also says it’s a necessity for the environment and public health. Critics say it may do the opposite.
“The main concern actually, if anything, with air quality are [the city’s] pits right here more than the pits that we bring down and provide,” Brown said. “I’ve seen pressure-treated wood, paint cans; I’ve seen some of the electric bikes or scooters thrown in these pits.”
LaCava says he’s prepared to address and monitor such concerns.
“That’s an ongoing challenge that we have as a city, fortunately we do have our parks and recreation staff that monitor the beaches, that keep an eye on the fire rings.”