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Surfers in Imperial Beach created a seaborne bonfire on July 4 in protest of the city’s decision to not participate in the Big Bay Boom fireworks show.

Calling their event “Light the Sea in IB,” a group of about 20 surfers paddled out past the breakers just south of the Imperial Beach pier, towing a substantial bonfire.

The protesters said they were acting “in revolt of the piss poor financial situation [the city council] has put us in,” according to their Facebook page.

Two fire crews arrived at the scene and several firemen made their way to the shore and watched the flames from the water’s edge; they left about an hour later.

“I got a little bit singed,” said a surfer afterward. “They piled a whole lot of firewood on a surfboard and lit it up.”

This marks the second year of fireworks disappointment for Imperial Beach. Last year’s July 4th celebration was a disaster when all the fireworks went off at once in the infamous Big Bay Boom mishap. Many Imperial Beach residents consider their city’s non-participation in the fireworks show this year a manmade disaster.

The city council said Imperial Beach could not afford the $30,000 in extra security provided by the police and fire department; the annual sandcastle competition was cancelled for the same reason. Earlier this year, a San Diego County Grand Jury investigation found that Imperial Beach had seriously mismanaged its budget.

The Big Bay Boom’s website cites an economic impact study to claim their show brings $10.6 million in tourist revenue, direct sales, and media exposure to the San Diego area, but then-city manager Gary Brown of Imperial Beach said in a city-council meeting last year that tax receipts did not indicate any economic benefit to the city from the show.

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