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Everyone had their say tonight, then it was the City Council’s turn. After a nervous moment of silence, Councilman Mike Henn starts to speak, “I move we accept staff’s recommendation to remove the fire rings.” In a blink the motion is seconded and passed unanimously.

Great memories, no one argued they aren't,
but today we know the adverse health effects

Anticlimatic? Maybe a little. The evening had its moments, like when the young Koop girls paired up at the podium; the younger one needed a little prodding before describing her fun times at the beach, “We go swimming; how are we supposed to warm up?” It was a charming moment.

In the end, logic out weighed emotion this night. I led off the public comments with an annotated slide show, acknowledging the wonderful good times, but accenting the research from sources like the EPA, the American Lung Association and closer to home, the AQMD. There’s no ambiguity with the science: wood smoke is more dangerous than anyone knew and speaker after speaker drove the point home.

Wes Hatfield made a clever argument equating each hour of fire rings output is equal to a hundred thousand cigarettes burning, and of course, it’s now illegal to burn even one. Charlie Farrell represented his peninsula neighbors well with his comments about how the nearby rings pollute his home and cause his friends to complain about the odor of his attire. Nancy French described how the smoke travels all the way to her home a mile inland. Suzanne Sandmeyer used her allotted time to refute the arguments for keeping the fire rings as she remembered Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commissioner Roy Englebrecht advocating, i.e. converting the fire rings to natural gas. Englebrecht himself attempted to be the last speaker of the evening making an impassioned plea for keeping the rings with a bizarre story of his own home-made scientific analysis of particulate matter and carbon monoxide gas in the proximity of the Corona del Mar site, but his loud and dramatic attempt to be the final word on the subject was thwarted when PB&R Chair Phillip Lugar summarized and offered to answer any questions. PB&R’s Kathy Hamilton spoke of the risks of severe burns, then like the Koop’s, her two daughters voiced convincing arguments for clean air at the beach.

Dr Jack Larson of Breakers Drive spoke of burning embers landing on his deck. Debbie Jeffs read a letter from Barbara Peters that referenced neighborhood lung cancer victims; is it a coincidence? Ocean Blvd’s Roger McKinnon voiced his thoughtful objections.

And then there were the proponents hoping for some compromise, for the sake of the memories and the good times. Surely some compromise, like the Duraflame logs which purportedly burn 60% cleaner could be combined with better police enforcement, pleaded one advocate for the status quo.

As I drove my 87 year-old neighbor home I asked, “Where are we going to celebrate? You’ve witnessed history tonight!”

I told her she brought good luck, “I’m bringing you to a Bike Safety meeting.”

Big Corona from Inspiration Point



Frank Peters

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