La Jollans are raising a red flag over the recent proliferation of beach fires throughout the community.
The topic has become a matter of increasing concern, having been raised recently in both La Jolla Shores and Beach-Barber Tract neighborhoods.
Beach bonfires are only allowed within fire rings, many of which have been removed by the City over the years due to budget cuts. Beach fires outside of rings are illegal.
“Having fires at this beach is not typical,” said Dory DeFranco of the Beach-Barber Tract with its somewhat secluded pocket beaches. “I don’t know what happened this year but it’s just been crazy. The beach has been full of burnt wood chips and burnt logs, and when the tide comes in it moves them out into the ocean where they become really dangerous for people swimming, boogie boarding, and surfing.”
“We’ve seen fires increase as well as the number of hot coals on the beach in the morning,” said Holly McMillan who lives near Marine Street.
“We’ve had as many as 26 fires at the same time on the same night at Kellogg Park and Scripps Beach,” said Meinrat Andreae of La Jolla Shores. “It’s an every night event pretty much and La Jolla Shores residents are being exposed to air pollution that is worse than Beijing. It’s a health danger and a cardiac risk from particulate pollution. This is not something to be taken lightly. This is a serious health hazard and a loss of quality of life for hundreds of individuals living near the beach.”
“I’m opposed to any attempt to ban beach fires,” contended Ken Hunrichs, a member of La Jolla Parks and Beaches, Inc. “Its an overreaction to a combination of problems including rowdiness that comes with alcohol use. Beach fires themselves are not causing the problems. It’s the combination of all the other things going on. Beach fires late in the evening when it gets cold allow people to cook and is a traditional thing. It all boils down to a lack of enforcement by the police department, for whatever reason.”
Mary Munk of La Jolla Shores pointed out that beach fires cannot be more than 12 inches above fire rings.
“A number of children have been burned at La Jolla Shores because of the charcoal in the sand in the morning,” said Munk. “We need to all work together to come up with a reasonable solution that benefits everybody. Maybe it’s not the same solution for every park.”
La Jolla Shores Association representing that neighborhood recently sent a letter urging the City to
“take immediate action to limit bonfires and outdoor cooking at La Jolla Shores Beach and Kellogg Park to the use of propane fuel in order to reduce the health risk stemming from smoke pollution. With the reopening of the beaches and park in early June 2020, wood and charcoal fires have returned and with them daily particulate air pollution events.
"Smoke pollution from beach fires is of serious and immediate concern. Limiting fires to the use of propane fuel would provide much of the same social benefits as wood or charcoal fires, but at very much reduced health impact. Such limits are, in fact, already current practice at most California beaches.”