Beach bonfire pits removed after cracking under heat pressure

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Don't plan on having a bonfire in one of those new concrete fire pits any time soon. That's because the newly-installed fire pits are gone from the beach in Harrison County. Weeks after they were put in, the fire pits had to be removed and sent back to the contractor. The county found out they just couldn't take the heat.

An area of the beach right next to Jones Park in Gulfport is known as a hot spot for beach-goers. That's because a 4,000 pound concrete bonfire pit once stood in the middle of the palm trees.

"They were very popular, very popular, because it gave people a center location where they could gather around a pit," said Sand Beach Director Chuck Loftis.

The county started putting in the fire pits in late April as part of its Sand Beach Master Plan. The pits were eight-feet in diameter and 18-inches high.  But the ones that were installed had to be removed after the county discovered a problem.

"We installed six of the 20 and we're having some issues with the concrete cracking in the bottom from the heat," said Loftis. "It cracked without any type of accelerant. So the contractor that the county used to build them is working on coming on the inside perimeter of the fire pit and lining it with a fire brick. That should take care of the issue."

Loftis said the county hired Design Precast and Pipe of Gulfport to design and build the fire pits at a total cost of $42,000. However, Loftis said the company specializes in concrete pipes, not fire pits.

"This was a little trial and error on their part, just like ours because we haven't done this," said Loftis. "We put them out. We found out where there was a little bit of a problem and they are correcting it."

When asked if the repairs will cost the county any more money, Loftis replied, "Right now, we're working with the contractor and that is yet to be determined."

Loftis hopes to have all 20 fire pits back early next month and put in place along the beach by mid-July.

"They're doing everything in their power to correct the problem, so we can get them back down here in a timely fashion," he said.

The vice-president of Design Precast and Pipe, Chris Fore, told WLOX News he will meet with Loftis on Wednesday to discuss some options to fix the problem. Those options include installing a fire clay brick, ceramic cement, or a type of fireproof concrete inside the fire pits.

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