Because the wood I was using was sort of damp, the fire put off a lot of smoke. Some neighbors thought I was burning wet leaves and called the fire department. I had a full fire crew come out in my backyard, axes and oxygen tanks and masks in hand, to investigate the fire. The crew lead took one look at it and basically said "no problem, we just had to check it out because we got a burning leaves call". He basically turned around and left after 1 minute. No warning, no citation, no you can't do this ... just a "sorry for the inconvenience, enjoy the BBQ". I should note that I have a fairly big backyard (25' wide by 150' deep) and the fire pit is not around any structures.
I burn a couple of times a year - but not on spare the air days - in the backyard with no issues since. My fire pit can be fully screened and I have easy access to a water faucet and hose close by FWIW. If you do burn, be smart about it (water close at hand, do it in a good fire pit, not on spare the air days, etc. ) so you don't screw it up for me ;-)
Never had this question before but many things will pertain. First is the desire of the air management board to do away with all wood burning. New homes canâ€™t have wood burning fireplaces and you canâ€™t get a permit to install on in a remodel. Next there will be zoning codes that might pertain depending on the neighborhood density, there could be building codes that say how it should be constructed and where it should be placed if it can be built. And lastly there is the question of do you need to ask your neighbors for permission or invite them over for smoors.
In reality though most people would take the better to apologize later than ask for permission first. Not that I'm advising you to do that of course I'm just saying . . .
It seems like a 'less open' fire is much better and preferred for a high density living city such as San Francisco.
Alina Aeby-Pacific Union International/Christie's