San Diego Bans Wood-Fire Beach Bonfires Outside Designated City Rings

December 13, 2022

San Diego officials have rewritten municipal code to officially ban wood-fueled beach bonfires outside designated city fire rings. 

Earlier today, the San Diego City Council unanimously voted to ban all wood bonfires on city beaches unless the fire is contained within a city-designated fire pit. Fires fueled by portable propane tanks and charcoal barbecuing on grassy park areas next to city beaches are still permitted. Hotels and other private businesses that lease city land remain exempt from the policy.

The ordinance was first proposed by Councilmember Joe LaCava in May, citing safety and air quality concerns. The policy will be finalized in 30 days after a second vote by the city council and could include changes. Fines for illegal beach fires are expected to range from $250 to $1,000.

"The problem is really two things...", explained a San Diego beach fire provider company who wishes to remain anonymous. "1. Beach fire companies will likely just become a public fire pit operator, commercializing the public fire pits. In L.A., there is a company that does this and charges $900 for a three hour bonfire for 10 people. 2. Beach fire companies will likely attempt to do propane fires, but the equipment is bulky and heavy. They will likely leave propane tanks on the beach, releasing propane into the air. If a homeless person comes by with a cigarette, if could explode. In San Diego many of the public fire pits are already taken over by the homeless. And you should see what people burn in there! A month ago, there was a queen size mattress burned in one in Mission Beach. There have been multiple acts of violence at public pits over the last two years, including gun shots. There was a smoldering dead body in a fire pit on Fiesta Island in 2020."

There are currently about 150 of concrete fire rings throughout the city, with an additional 30-something pits added around beaches like Pacific Beach, La Jolla, Mission Beach and Ocean Beach during the summer season. In the 1990s, the city had nearly 500 fire rings, but in 2008, the city removed nearly 300 of its concrete fire pits as a means to save money.