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Fire Rings

What's New and Why?

Visitors to our beaches will find a change in the fuels you can use for our sixty fire rings (27 at Big Corona and 33 at the Balboa Pier area). You can now only use charcoal. Your experience may be a little different – you will find a more even heat, even a longer heat and more heat, and almost no smoke or smoky smell. Cooking dinner seems much better over charcoal. So are s’mores. Your eyes won’t sting and your clothes won’t smell like smoke for hours afterwards. If family or friends have asthma or respiratory problems with wood smoke, they might find charcoal to be a much better experience. But the flame is less – and eventually charcoal moves to glowing coals.

This comes about because of a new rule to protect and improve air quality in our region. If a city’s fire rings are 700’ or less from residential areas, then the fuel source can only be charcoal unless the rings are spaced out at least 100’ apart from each other. We in Newport have not wanted to space the rings differently – keeping them where they are keeps the same amount of sand open for other uses (blankets, volleyball, Frisbee, sunbathing), as well as avoids impacting our neighbors who don’t experience smoke today. 

As of March 24, charcoal is the only fuel source in the beach fire rings at both locations in Newport Beach. Enforcement efforts have begun with warnings and outreach / education as the City realizes some beach visitors will not be aware of the "charcoal only" rule. In time, administrative citations (which carry a first-violation fine of $100) will be issued if a fire ring user chooses not to comply with the new rule.

What's the Best Charcoal Experience?

Purchase a bag or two of “lump” charcoal at Target, Home Depot, Lowes, the supermarket, or a similar store. It should be about $13/bag. We’ve found that the best kinds are Royal Oak, Cowboy, and Hardwood – again, all “lump” charcoals (not briquettes). You do not have to use lighter fluid either – to avoid the lighter fluid smell, pick up a small carton of paraffin starters (you’ll find these at Home Depot and other places – they’ll be about $3.50 for a box of 24 starters). Just 3-4 starters will get your fire going. Pile the charcoal a bit, with a peak in the center, place the 3-4 starters around the pile, light them, and enjoy good consistent heat for about two hours with two bags of lump-style charcoal (click here for some samples of lump-style charcoal).

 Charcoal Only
 Advantages Disadvantages
  Much less visible smoke  Less visible flame
  Much less smell of smoke
   - More warmth
   - Warmth lasts longer
   - More even warmth for cooking
 Lighter fluid smell
   - Paraffin starters solve this problem.
  Fuel is lighter and easier to haul across the sand  
Easier to start with paraffin starters
Easier to find and purchase
Less likely to have other hazards burned or left in the rings
 - like nails, creosote, paint, plastics, and varnish.

Your experience won’t be as good if you purchase briquettes or keep dumping lighter fluid on the charcoal. If you really miss the experience of a high flame (and all of the smoke that comes with it), other areas to the north and south of Newport Beach have wood-fueled fire rings that are far enough away from homes that they can burn wood. However, before you decide wood is best, give our charcoal option a try and see what a nearly smoke-free beach fire ring experience is like. See the nearly smoke-free fire rings at Corona del Mar State Beach in the below photo taken on June 14, 2014.

Smoke Free Beach


  • To read more about the charcoal-only rule, click here to read about the Air Quality action.  
  • To learn more about our beach fire rings and our experience with charcoal, please see our brochure.
  • After you have visited, let us know what you thought about the charcoal experience – e-mail us here


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Last updated: 6/20/2014 1:31:20 PM