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EDITORIAL: California to ban fire

Enjoying the pleasures of life is just not good for you

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Since man first rubbed a pair of sticks together to make a fire, we've gathered around a campfire to cook food, enjoy good company and bask in the warmth of the glowing embers. Now the green spoilsports in Southern California want to take that all way, sending beach ring fire pits the way of the caveman.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District will decide this summer whether to order the removal of 850 bonfire pits from Los Angeles and Orange county beaches on the pretense that fire is bad for the environment. To support its position, the agency concocted a study concluding that an evening beach fire creates as much particulate matter pollution as a diesel truck driving 564 miles.

Long before the Beach Boys got everybody humming "Surfin' USA," Californians have been drawn to bonfires and barbecues on the sand. The very idea of stamping out this tradition horrifies many beach communities that realize it means a major loss of tourism dollars. The city of Huntington Beach estimates the rings of fire have drawn thousands to their shores, spending millions of dollars with local merchants.

California is not the first state to consider outlawing combustion. In Seattle, where it rains most of the time anyway, the city's Department of Parks and Recreation considered a similar prohibition, but not to protect the quality of the air. "The overall policy question for the Board is whether it is good policy for Seattle Parks to continue public beach fires when the carbon foot emissions produced by thousands of beach fires per year [contribute] to global warming," a 2008 staff memo explained.

The European Union also has outlawed wood-burning stoves, to the horror of Italy's pizzerias. Earlier this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency followed with "standards" that prohibit the sale of old-fashioned wood-burning stoves in favor of newer, more expensive "EPA-certified" models.

It surely won't be long until the EPA bans gathering around an indoor fireplace on a cold winter's night. In the San Francisco area, where goofiness is prized, regulators have forbidden the use of a fireplace whenever a "Spare the Air" day is declared. To enforce the directive, inspectors drive around looking for offenders; a toll-free tattletale hotline encourages neighbor to turn in neighbor. Regulators even require warning labels be placed on wood that state: "Use of this and other solid fuels may be restricted at times by law." Californians must visit a website to find out whether they have the government's permission to warm their home with a fire.

Man's taming of fire enabled him to cook his food, bring light to the darkness, make stronger tools and survive the harshest of winters. It's the one discovery upon which all civilizations are built. The assault on bonfires, fireplaces and stoves undermines one of the cornerstones of society. It's what happens when government gets big enough to snuff out man's greatest achievement.

The Washington Times

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