Romance of the beach fire tainted

Mission Beach gets smoke from rubber and plastic

Burnt printer in Mission Beach firepit
  • Burnt printer in Mission Beach firepit

Fire pits at South Mission Beach are heating up again.

Residents complain that smoke blown on the wind is polluting their homes. It comes not only from the permitted burning of wood and paper but from rubber and plastic. Couches and a printer are some of the other items that have been found in the pits the morning after.

In 2014, Nancie Geller and Betty Jean Lundquist researched and wrote “Fire Pits on Mission Beach,” a report on the how the burning affects people’s health. The report found that poisonous chemicals, dioxins and formaldehyde, for example, travel in the fumes.

Even the pallets that are popular fuel in the pits violate the rules because of nails and the treated wood they contain. The varnish on the old furniture that often appears in the pits is also dangerous when burned.

Residents who live on the boardwalk receive the most intense blown smoke.

“Anybody who is already compromised by lung problems, such as asthma and bronchitis, or cardiac issues, is at high risk,” says Geller on the day before the Fourth of July.

It has been hard enough to control what goes on at the permanently positioned fire pits. South Mission Beach has eight of them, plus four more along the jetty just outside the gate at the edge of the parking lot.

A relatively new dynamic is now complicating the picture. Several companies rent portable fire pits along with other amenities, such as plastic chairs for sitting around the fire. They might even supply the s’mores for browning that many people insist is the key ingredient in the enjoying of friends around the fire. These companies set up much closer to the boardwalk than where the concrete pits are located.

Dan Daneri, district manager of the city Parks and Recreation beaches and coastal parks, says it is almost most impossible to stop this practice, despite its violation of the rules.

“I have four park rangers to cover the shoreline from Sunset Cliffs to Torrey Pines,” he says.

Neither of two companies contacted, San Diego Coast Rentals and Beach Fire Guy, answered phone inquiries as to whether they have licenses to set up fire pits on the beach.

There are no such licenses, says Daneri.

South Mission has staunch defenders of the fire pits, too. Some see them as the prime attraction to tourists who visit San Diego’s beaches. In 2008, at a time when the city came close to defunding maintenance of the pits, a $259,500 donation was received from an anonymous donor to keep them. Councilman Kevin Faulconer ($16,452) and several private organizations kicked in more money, and the pits were saved.

Sitting around a beach fire with family creates lasting memories, says Geller. “I get that. But something has to be done to protect residents.”

Share / Tools

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • AddThis
  • Email

More from SDReader


It's too easy to write this off as one more reason why we can't have nice things. But we know garbage people do garbage things. That's why we pay taxes for the city to conduct law enforcement.

For parks and wrecks to only have four rangers covering 26 miles of coastline is yet another example of San Diego being "condemned by neglect" by our civic misleaders—along with development disservices begging off code enforcement.

So right now, no public works agency is able to work with the police, because the police must be kept free to respond immediately to private calls from ritzy ZIP Codes.

It's parks and recs (NOT "wrecks"). ;-) [Recs is short for recreation.] Wrecks are handled by Harbor Police.

It's an intentional figure of speech—as should be obvious by its use alongside "civic misleaders" and "development disservices."

But thank you once again for derailing a thread with an inane comment the only purpose of which is to direct attention to yourself and away from the topic. (Just to be clear, the previous sentence is an example of sarcasm.)

Cassander, you're even better with sarcasm than I ever hoped to be. Everything you said is true. The city just isn't doing much of anything well, and has abandoned many things to the unruly masses who never think of anyone but themselves. In some areas and in many ways, the city is rapidly declining to third-world status, not unlike our neighbor south of the border. But Kev-boy keeps smilin', laughin' and scratchin' while he pretends all is well.

uh its cause we want stuff for free! Like trash pick up :-)

Those who respond with sarcastic criticism might be more helpful if they contacted Parks & Recreation to volunteer. I bet the rangers would appreciate help checking those fire pits. Here's the link: http://www.sandiego.gov/sites/default/files/legacy/park-and-recreation/pdf/volunteer/volunteerapp.pdf

My criticism on the topic of this story was not sarcastic. Neither is my suggestion that you volunteer yourself rather than draft others into service. It might even provide you with actual content to write.

Journalists generally don't volunteer at an organization, then write an article about it later. I suggested you volunteer, since you are so terribly upset over Parks & Recreation & civic leaders unable to carry out proper inspection of fire pits. So why not help them out? Jabbering in the comments section changes nothing. Volunteering does. As they say on TV: "Call or click today."

Dwbat, no number of winky smiley-faces can camouflage your bossy impulses that elicit such killer smackdowns from Cassander. I am waiting to see how long it takes for you to get the message: MYOB. Disagree if you wish, but lay off correcting, directing and offering condescending editorial guidance to others.

maybe someone will find out if dwbat is so critical in person, or just hiding behind a computer screen.

We're all behind computer screens here. Duh! I've never met any of the people who post Reader comments, and have NO interest in meeting them. Well, Scott Marks would be an exception. ;-)

Never met the man, but based on my experience, given his background and his age, I would say that what you see, or in this case what you read, is what you get. But that said, does it really matter??

Just my opinion. Opinions vary.

Mrs. M: But then YOU just corrected someone with a nasty tone. Practice what YOU preach, and MYOB.

"Mrs. M"? So you not only assumed monaghan's gender, but did so specifically to use women's identity as an insult.

So much for your feminist credentials.

Cassander - I think you caught something that should be corrected.

Note: "monaghan" is a pseudonym. No assumption. Her name is Francine. I forget her last name.

"Her name is Francine." No, it's not, dwbat. Try, try, try to MYOB and stick to the subject.

So i should pay taxes and volunteer? C'mon. What really needs to happen is a community watch and start enforcing codes on your own. You know, the classic way this City has always been. I feel like a lot of you ain't from the West thus the whining about being dependent on government to take care of your neighborhood problems. When my neighbor does something stupid like smoke cigarettes and it gets in my house.. I don't call the cops, I walk over and let that mofo know something. Cowboy up City Slicker mofos.

dwbat has super-powers, invisible, spellcheck, adviser, humor, good guy stuff...

Hardly invisible. I've been a Reader news stringer for 8+ years.

Back to installed concrete fire rings. They are old-timey San Diego, convivial and drive off the evening damp, and they are old-timey dangerous, too. I personally know two kids who have fallen into live embers and been burned. But I also appreciate those donors who contributed to keep concrete fire rings on the beaches.

In this low-wage unregulated gig-economy world, some enterprising guy now supplies mobile firepits and fuel that burn close to boardwalk residences and pollute the air everyone breathes? Not good. There oughta be a law and serious pro-active law enforcement to prohibit it. (The same could be said for ocean kayaks stacked on the sand and swarming the waters off south La Jolla Shores.)

So Cassander was right all along: the City IS derelict in protecting San Diego's beaches, our #1 natural resource. Let's get a Mayor who will pay attention.

Of course it's a good idea to have a better mayor. But I don't think that electing a new mayor (a Democrat) will necessarily result in better beach protection. It's not that simple. Again, why are the whiners here refusing to volunteer for beach inspection/cleanup? It's so easy to post comments and complain. But where's the action? Other volunteers DID show up after the 4th to pick up trash on our beaches. Instead of griping, they did something positive.

For exactly two reasons: that people on the street should not be deputized to enforce laws; and that none of us should be obligated to carry out the duties our elected representatives shirk. Either get the system to work as intended or admit you don't have a solution. (And I note your use of "they" to reflect that you yourself did not volunteer for beach cleanup.)

And for the record: George Orwell, Upton Sinclair, Barbara Ehrenreich and numerous others have whole careers to speak to your begging off getting your hands dirty digging "generally" because you're a "journalist."

I don't go to the beaches, and live far from them. So it's not an issue for me. There are apparently some here who DO go to the beaches, but refuse to get out of their computer chairs and do volunteer cleanup. That's the point I was making. I HAVE done volunteer work in North Park where I live, including graffiti reporting and reporting of code violations. Again, you know nothing about me, and just jabber on without getting the facts.

Do they still leave big piles of seaweed attracting flies on the beaches? Not people friendly.

If "they" do, seaweed is at least a natural occurrence, unlike man-made trash-fueled fires.

Each year the firepits are placed back out on to the sand, usually too close to the boardwalk and not sufficiently spaced. Then as far as I know, no firepits are allowed on the jetty side of the parking lot in SMB, but they are. Thirdly, either there is no education or people ignore what information there is and burn illegal materials. This has led to an artificial smog blowing into the residential areas to the west of the beach. We need a committee that works on this annually from the town council.

I feel for the residents who live along the boardwalk. It sucks to wake up to beautiful sunrises and have private easement access to a public beach. Such a bummer that the City doesn't focus on this issue for them... Oh wait lets remember that they also ignore the whole community of Barrio Logan and subsequent non-action to rezone a largely residential area grossly polluted from our City's best citizens and also best polluters... the Navy... Yay!

Nobody is required to live on the boardwalk. It's their choice.

Log in to comment

Skip Ad

Let’s Be Friends

Subscribe for local event alerts, concerts tickets, promotions and more from the San Diego Reader