Please, Sir, I Want S’mores!

943538_573294946044069_1064030676_nThe starry night. The crackling fire. The salty sea air. Yes, I am a fan of the ocean-side bonfire; I grew up in Huntington Beach, it’s a part of my culture. But you know what else I’m a fan of? The right to clean air.

Things got heated this past month as the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) passed new bonfire legislation set to go into effect March of 2014. Many Southern California residents were outraged, but is the decision really that outlandish?

Here’s the court’s compromise: fire pits can remain so long as they are located at least 700 feet from the nearest residence, or are separated by at least 100 feet (though if a city has fewer than 15 pits, they can be separated by only 50 feet).

All things considered, the decision could have been much worse. The SCAQMD is in charge of air quality in Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties – that’s nearly 11,000 square miles and over 17 million people to keep happy.

“But we don’t see poor air quality at the beach – why should we care about it?” Allow me to break it down. It all comes back to geography.

The south coast basin is exactly that – a basin. It has mountains on three sides and ocean on the other. The wind off the ocean pushes particulates (like those coming from bonfires) inland, where they are then trapped by the mountains. So maybe you don’t see pollution at the beach, but your pals inland sure do feel it.

So, yes, maybe there are fewer bonfire pits or they’re just a little more spread out. Considering that the SCAQMD had the right to pull the plug on all bonfires in the area, I’d choose battles wisely. But hey, that’s just me – I guess I’m a sucker for clean air and a good s’more.

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