Park Service busts beach bonfire burners on New Year’s Day

National Park Service logoNational Park Service rangers cited about 20 people Tuesday evening for burning an illegal fire on Ocean Beach just west of the Oceanside water treatment plant.

The fire was about 15 to 20 feet across, said Ranger Eric LaSalle, and was bright enough that witnesses saw it as far away as Stairwell 15 at the north end of Ocean Beach, almost 3 miles away near the Beach Chalet. The size of the fire made authorities concerned that a car had gone over a steep coastal bluff and was burning, so several San Francisco Fire Department vehicles responded to the scene along with LaSalle and another NPS ranger.

It turned out the fire was fueled by shipping pallets and Christmas trees, not a crashed car, but firefighters pulled a hose onto the beach to douse the flames at about 8:30 p.m. Firefighters said no one was hurt in the fire or in the response to it.

At the scene of the fire, it appeared that everyone who was on the beach at the fire had arrived in cars and trucks that were all parked in a narrow strip of pavement that once was part of the Great Highway. Rangers blocked the only entrance to the area with their own SUV, trapping all the vehicles between concrete traffic barriers and the bluff. The rangers then lined up everyone and issued citations before letting people drive away.

One man who was cited said his ticket would cost him $125.

At least on child was among the people at the scene, but rangers said all the people cited were adults. LaSalle declined to say what city the people cited were from, but he said they were “local.”

Rangers said no one is allowed to burn those materials on any part of Ocean Beach, and no fires are allowed outside of designated rings and pits on the beach between Stairwell 21 and Stairwell 28.

More information about the rules for fires at Ocean Beach is available from the National Park Service.

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  1. I can tell you that as of this morning there is a big pile of burnt Xmas trees on the beach between Lawton & Moraga Streets. The problem with these ‘ritual’ fires is that no one, ever, ever, ever cleans up. They are left on the beach until the tides, waves or other volunteers clean up. I wouldn’t fine the culprits, I’d prohibit them from ever going to the beach again! If they can’t pick up after themselves they shouldn’t be allowed to use public space and parks as a trash can!

  2. Time to get rid of the NAZI Park Gestapo and replace them with the donut eating lazy SFPD!

  3. The ban on fires is totally apporpriate considering how close it is to a major city, and how much trash gets left behind. The fire rings are beautiful and sensible and there is no reason not to use them. Even with the ban and the fire rings there are always pallets and christmas trees out there half burned with nails sticking out of them and broken glass everywhere kids, horses, dogs, and surfers are playing. It’s disgusting and dangerous. I’d rather show my “local pride” by cleaning up our beach, not trashing it.

  4. Gee whiz, can’t San Franciscans have their rituals anymore? These folks are tried and true bonfire burners, not out to cause any harm. Some of my fondest New Year’s Day memories are of Ocean Beach bonfires. It’s a beautiful thing. So sad.

  5. The ban on fires on Ocean Beach is absurd. The Park Police knew %100 that this was a fire and not a car. They are ready for this event every year on the same day and are on the scene in seconds. Didn’t their parents teach them that lying isn’t nice? Although these New Years Day fires are large and a bit scary, nobody has ever been injured at these events. This is the only way the locals can show their displeasure of the fire ban on the beach.

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