Help me start a bonfire in the Bay Area
October 20, 2006 10:46 AM   Subscribe

Bonfire By The Bay: Can we do it? Please click down ⬇ there and find

I'm in the San Francisco Bay Area. My buddy's birthday is coming up, and a bonfire on the beach sounds like a Great Idea™ for celebrating. I'm wondering about the various legal/logistical issues of setting one up.

First of all, is it legal? I think I've seen bonfire pits on a beach near Half Moon Bay, which leads me to believe there are at least some beaches that allow them around here.

Second, if they are legal, do I need to obtain a permit or anything to actually light one? Are we going to get harassed by rangers?

Any tips on bonfires in the Bay Area are welcomed.
posted by symphonik to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Isn't that where Burning Man first got started?
posted by Flashman at 10:48 AM on October 20, 2006

Yes, they are legal in some places. Yes, you may need a permit in some places. The beach is a really long stretch of land administered by several different entities along its length, each with wildly varying rules -- some of which, like the SFPD and Ocean Beach -- change randomly and seemingly without warning.
posted by majick at 10:54 AM on October 20, 2006

The police do patrol the beaches very frequently, and when I was down there we got kicked off the beach for trying to burn pallets. So make sure you only bring and burn non-treated wood without any nails.
posted by Sprocket at 11:04 AM on October 20, 2006

There is a way to get a permit for one here in Marin, at Muir Beach, I believe, and also at Stinson. I would give the GGNRA a call, and also the Park Service.
posted by wzcx at 11:07 AM on October 20, 2006

Best answer: I was part of a bonfire group down at Ocean Beach in SF a few weeks ago. No problems with the cops. The fires were fine. I did hear they were watching out for drinking, so you would have to be very discreet on that front if you were so inclined. They also were rumoured to be giving out parking tickets after 10pm in the lot right next to the beach, but you can always park elsewhere.
posted by apostrophe at 11:08 AM on October 20, 2006

Best answer: Bonfires are allowed on Ocean Beach between Lincoln Way and Fulton street - be sure to check the tide charts, as the beach is narrower here than it is north of Lincoln. More rules here. (It says no alcohol is allowed, but in my experience, if you keep it low-key and the group is fairly small, the cops won't hassle you. YMMV.)
posted by rtha at 11:51 AM on October 20, 2006

Best answer: Be aware that scale will be a factor. I had a medium-sized bonfire on a SF beach (sorry, I can't remember which one) that attracted no attention form the local authorities. However, about 300 yards down the beach there was some kind of Iron John He-Man bonfire going on. It was freakin' huge, literally the size of a small house with flames another 10 feet in the air. The fire department showed up and doused it with a fire-hose.
posted by lekvar at 12:14 PM on October 20, 2006

Fires on Ocean Beach are legal and you don't need a permit. The rules that rtha links to are worth a read. When I had a fire there about two weeks ago, the cops came around and told us that if we had any alocohol (which we had stealthed out rather well), we should go put it in our cars or get rid of it. They said if they came around later and we still had it, they would ticket us.

At 10pm, they DO tow cars from the beach parking lot. Technically the beach closes at 10 as well, but the cops generally let you stay later. We were there until midnight last time.
posted by autojack at 12:29 PM on October 20, 2006

The lot closes, but you can usually find a spot around the corner on Lincoln. The cops *will* come by and check on you (for booze) once during the evening. It is great fun though. Oh, and build your fire well away from the vegetation, or they will make you move.

more regulations here
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 3:03 PM on October 20, 2006

If you can face the drive over Hwy 17, head for the beaches west of Santa Cruz out towards Davenport: panther beach, bonny doon and davenport beaches are beautiful, somewhat enclosed by cliffs for shelter, and great for bonfires. I've had fires there many times and never been hassled. Panther is my favorite but not easy to find (pull off on the left 100 yards after the milemark 26.40, a little east of Fambrini's Farm Produce -- it's 6.5 miles from the edge of Santa Cruz); Bonny Doon beach is at the bottom of the road up to Bonny Doon.

This time of year there isn't much driftwood (and driftwood smokes anyway) so pick up some of the free discarded pallets at the NE corner of Hwy 9 / Hwy 1 junction in Santa Cruz.
posted by anadem at 4:42 PM on October 20, 2006

Another vote here for Bonny Doon. Have partied until the wee hours there. Cops show up only if things get out of hand. Happy Birthday!
posted by vaportrail at 6:30 PM on October 20, 2006

Response by poster: Hey people! Ocean Beach was fantastic, thanks for the recommendation! Didn't get searched once by cops (even with beer), had a great night with a big fire, the sounds of the ocean, sausages, and s'mores.

There was one point where the fire department showed up—they extinguished a fire that some dumbass had lit on the sidewalk.

The birthday'd friend said it was a perfect night.

MeFi = rock. Thanks to everyone. And we'll definitely check out Bonny Doon too. Maybe we should do a MeFi bonfire...
posted by symphonik at 12:10 AM on October 21, 2006

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