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Natural gas fire rings for beach fires?

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POSTED November 24, 2013 8:19 p.m.

NEWPORT BEACH  (AP) — The Newport Beach City Council will weigh whether to test natural gas-burning fire rings on certain beaches as part of a pilot project with anti-pollution regulators.

The city staff plans to ask the council Tuesday to join the project that would install cleaner-burning gas fire pits while removing some wood-burning rings that some residents have deemed a health nuisance, the Los Angeles Times reported in Sunday’s editions.

“I think ... these are going to be really popular,” City Manager Dave Kiff said of the natural gas alternative.

Before beachgoers can roast s’mores over gas bonfires, the South Coast Air Quality Management District must give the go-ahead for contractors to build the prototype propane and natural gas fire rings. The California Coastal Commission also must sign off on the project.

If approved, the rollout of the new gas rings would occur in two steps: An initial trial run would be tested at Balboa Pier before expanding to Corona del Mar. Instead of being placed near wood-burning pits in the sand, the gas rings would be near parking lots.

City officials will study how safe the gas rings are and whether they’re easy to maintain during the pilot phase.

“This is uncharted territory,” Kiff told the newspaper.

The switch to gas fire rings in certain beach spots comes amid concerns over wood-burning bonfires. Last summer, some Newport Beach residents sought to ban the pits, saying the smoke drifts over and pollutes their homes. But supporters say the rings are a beach tradition and tourist attraction.

During the heated bonfire battle earlier this year, the California Assembly approved a nonbinding resolution supporting the fire rings as a “time-honored” and “important beach attraction.” Orange County supervisors delivered a similar resolution.

Under rules approved by the AQMD that go into effect in March, bonfires must be at least 700 feet from homes.

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