Smoldering Beach Fire at Cooks

photo by Harry Lutz

As of June, both California State Parks and Mendocino County have prohibited wood fires and open flames on beaches. The public access management agreement for Cooks Beach does not provide for fire rings or permanent grills to accommodate beach fires. Additionally, RCLC has a policy prohibiting using the public access to carry-in or collect material to be used in building beach fires.

Cooks Beach is a very dangerous coved beach for fires. There are multiple concerns and multiple unintended consequences from open flames on this beach. Drought conditions are certainly the main concern, but so is the dense foliage surrounding the beach and the possibility of igniting the bluff face where fire will most certainly race to the top. Cooks Beach is often windy and even a light breeze can blow embers into the foliage (a beach fire south of us at Stillwater Cove in July, ignited by blowing embers from an abandoned fire, started at the base of the cliff and burned to the top of the bluff.) There is limited visibility to the entire beach and bluff face of Cooks Beach. Fire could easily reach the homes above the bluff face before any fire could be seen, reported and extinguished.

It may seem prudent to bury burning embers to extinguish a fire, but covering with sand may only lengthen the time until embers cool. In that case, dogs and people are in danger of stumbling upon a very hot, buried fire as they walk the beach. The use of driftwood already on the beach or alternate fuels, such as coal or propane, is not an answer to the issue. There is still far greater reason to prohibit any fires/ open flames on the beach than to risk the consequences to vegetation and homes in the immediate vicinity.