Are beach fires out of control?

SAN DIEGO - Some people tell Team 10 that fire pit problems are spreading in the beach communities.

They say smoke fills their homes with noxious fumes.

Others call the beach fires a beloved tradition in San Diego and say complaints are being exaggerated by a small group of homeowners.

Complaints over the fire pits started on the online community Nextdoor.

They say people are making their own pits and breaking the rules or hiring a business to set the fires up.

Betty Jean and Steve Lundquest, who live in Mission Beach, say smoke fills their second-floor bedroom three to four times a week.

"Smells like houses burning. Plastic, burning of red cups, Styrofoam, beer bottles, cans -- whatever people happen to have they throw in there," said Betty Lundquest.

There is a city-owned fire pit from their balcony.

"You have the right to fire pits -- they are fun. But I shouldn't have to breathe it," said Lundquest.

Lundquest wants the fires in specific areas where smoke can't get into homes, like on Fiesta Island.

According to city regulations, beach fires are allowed in San Diego. The rules state that they have to be in containers. Only wood, coal or paper products can be used as fuel. The fires can't reach a height more than 12 inches above the upper area of the container and the fires cannot burn between midnight and 5 a.m.

According to complaints on Nextdoor, these rules are being broken. The claims are that people are setting up their own pits too close to homes and filling the air with smoke.

People gave Team 10 pictures of a group around a fire pit lighting sky lanterns, which is illegal in San Diego. Team 10 also has pictures of unattended fires, garbage and dozens of beer bottles left behind in the pits.

Posters also said people are hiring a new business, Beach Fire Guy, to build a fire pit for them.

You hire the company to set up a fire pit. They bring the chairs, Tikki torches and kindling. Owner Josh Kennedy sets it up and cleans it up.

"We meet all the requirements" said Kennedy in an online video.  

But some worry he doesn't have the right paperwork. Team 10 could not find a business license for the beach fire guy on the City of San Diego's website. The owner did not respond to our requests to see it.

"It's a great great idea" said Andy Chotiner of the Mission Beach Town Council.

Chotiner wants to make sure everything is being done correctly.

"If he had his permits with the city I think everything would be fine. It just doesn't seem like he's doing it within the confines of the law," said Chotiner.

Kennedy said in a comment on Next Door his business is 100 percent legit.

He'll work with anyone who has complaints about smoke or debris

Many don't want to see the Beach Fire Guy or beach fires stomped out.

The Matchner family set up a fire pit in one of the city-owned pits near the Jetty on Mission Beach.

The city has several pits located near the Jetty away from homes.

"It's just a great tradition. The family can all be out here together," said Kim Matchner.

Jill Sourge lives in front of one on Mission Bay.

She said the complaints are being overblown by a small group.

"If you are complaining about fire pits on the beach. Then maybe you should move away from the beach. That's the lifestyle you sign up for when you move here," said Sourge.

Team 10 called Ed Harris the San Diego City councilman in the beach area. He said he's gotten some complaints as well, and told code compliance to look into the issue. The Troubleshooter will stay on top of it, and question the councilman until an enforcement decision is made.

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