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Saving fire pits is all about safety

Even though the La Jolla Community Foundation has stepped in to offer assistance in saving the fire pits at La Jolla Shores, the fate of the small piece of San Diego beach culture seems decided. And that’s a bad thing for more than just the fun they bring.

Can you say safety?

The $4,550 the foundation has put up to tempt others to ante up is a mere drop in the bucket on top of the $2,576 already in the save-the-fire-pit fund. A total of $120,000 must be raised by May 7 before staffing is dropped from the city’s 2011 budget. (In light of full disclosure, The Light’s publisher chairs the La Jolla group that recently offered up the funds.)

While there’s a possibility the removal could be delayed since it appears a California Coastal Commission permit will be required before the pits can be removed, the city still has no apparent plans to come up with funding for even a short-term — say, summer season? — reprieve.

This all-or-nothing attitude and seeming refusal to respond to the La Jolla Shores Association’s idea of having businesses contribute in exchange for some sort of advertising on some of the concrete pits is tough to understand.

Sure it makes sense to have city staffers clean the junk out of the pits on a regular shift. Officials say it takes two people, using a front loader and dump truck, and an average of 30 minutes for each. Why couldn’t it be done as part of a shift instead of a full shift?

But our real concern is about more than just wanting La Jolla’s rings to stay because they’re part of our beach life; it’s about safety. Without the fire pits, more people will start illegal bonfires on the beaches as they did in the ‘80s. Who’s to guarantee that they’ll be careful with the burning embers and move them to the appropriate receptacles and not just leave them on the beaches where people or animals will step on them. That will mean firefighters and lifeguards spending time tending to emergencies that could have been prevented.

And how many calls about fires on the beach will police have to respond to, taking their valuable time off the streets of our communities?

We urge Sherri Lightner, Kevin Faulconer and Donna Frye, who represent the beach communities, to find a way to give this all-or-nothing-at-all decision another look — quickly.