Feds snuff out Ocean Beach bonfires


Stick around San Francisco long enough and you’ll get clued in on some of The City’s secrets: The off-menu salt-and-pepper calamari at Crustacean. The rope swing at Billy Goat Hill. Quincy Street during rush hour.

For decades, one not-so-secret tradition has been the annual Post-Yule Pyre, a massively unauthorized torching of used-up, spiritless Christmas trees at an undisclosed location on Ocean Beach. At full stoke, the event has attracted hundreds of people with trees in tow.

Bonfires have a long tradition along The City’s western edge and in beach culture. Safety concerns and fussy neighbors, though, have scaled back legal fires to just a smattering of designated artistic fire pits.

This year, federal rangers appear fed up with the cat-and-laser-pointer game they’ve played with fire starters in years past. Golden Gate National Recreation Area spokesman Howard Levitt told the Chron this year is different:

“Every year this issue seems to come up. We’ll be paying extra attention to people bringing trees to the beach. And if they’re burning on the beach, they’ll be¬†cited.”

Already this year, eight people were slapped with $125 Park Police citations for burning trees on Ocean Beach Tuesday night. In addition to GGNRA restrictions, Tuesday night was a Spare the Air night, criminalizing outdoor wood-burning completely.

The City makes it easy to legally get rid of Christmas trees, with free curbside pickup during normal trash days. But that just simply isn’t as much fun as a beach bonfire.

Jesse Garnier
Jesse Garnier is the editor and founder of SFBay. A Mission District native, he also teaches journalism as associate professor at San Francisco State University.

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