Alison Hillm…, Other/Just Looking in San Francisco, CA

Is it illegal to have a controlled fire pit bonfire BBQ in your backyard in SF if you own your building?

Asked by Alison Hillman, San Francisco, CA Mon Feb 18, 2013

Help the community by answering this question:


Inquiring minds want to know.
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 can’t have wood burning fireplaces and you can’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 . . .
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Feb 18, 2013
Convert to gas fire pit and fire glass. There is no smoke, soot, fumes. You will be healthier and so will your neighbors.
Flag Mon Oct 17, 2016
Of course the hypothetical neighbors would be invited to the hypothetical BBQ!
Flag Mon Feb 18, 2013
Flag Mon Feb 18, 2013
Jed Lane, Real Estate Pro in San Francisco, CA
Here is a good article from San Francisco Examiner about San Francisco rules:

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
2 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Feb 18, 2013
There is no amount of wood smoke which is safe to breathe. Google PM2.5. The particulate matter in wood smoke imbeds itself in one's lungs and is there forever. Wood smoke is just as bad as cigarette smoke, if not worse. And------ when you light up your fire pit, you are forcing your neighbors to breathe in that pollution. If you must have a pit fire, use fire glass. You can find it on Amazon.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Oct 17, 2016
I'm not an expert to answer this, but I can share my experience: I live in Cole Valley, SF and in 2011 I invited some folks over for an afternoon backyard BBQ. Anticipating the fog rolling in, I started a fire in my "fire pit". My fire pit is a small (~2' x 2' x 3') commercial metal fire pit that I bought at Sears (looks similar to this…). I use this for heat and ambiance when I grill - which I do on a normal, gas BBQ.

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 ;-)
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jul 15, 2013
Wood smoke is harmful. There is NO AMOUNT of wood smoke which is safe to breathe. Look up PM2.5 and learn about particulate matter. Firefighters don't want to know that wood smoke is bad for them. When I called my local fire dept to report that my neighbors' chimney was like a smoke stack, with smoke pouring into my house, the firemen advised me to remodel my house, to the tune of 1,000s of $$. That's how much they are in denial. The man from Air Pollution Control told me that hermetically sealing yourself up in your house won't help. Wood smoke acts like a gas, the particles are so fine. The particulate matter imbeds itself in your lungs and is there forever. Wood burners need to stop polluting their neighbors, themselves, the planet. Step into the 21st century. Fireglass in fire pits, gas logs in fireplaces and gas barbecues. Don't pollute our precious air.
Flag Mon Oct 17, 2016
Firefighters don't want to think that wood smoke is as harmful as it is. I had firemen come to my home, because my neighbors' chimney was like a smokestack w/ the smoke pouring into my home. The firemen advised me to spend 1,000s of dollars to remodel my home, install double pane glass windows and such. That's how much they know. I called Air Pollution Control. The man told me NO AMOUNT OF REMODELING can seal out wood smoke. The particulate matter from smoke acts like a gas and will find its way into your home and into your lungs------no matter how hermetically you try to seal yourself up in your home. WHY should anyone have to put up with this encroachment of a harmful substance onto one's property? The answer: You don't have to. Encroachment of contaminants (soot, particulate matter) is illegal. Burners should know that they are polluting their neighbors' air, the air of the neighborhood, the air of the planet AND harming themselves in the process. Look up PM2.5. Smoke is BAD!!
Flag Mon Oct 17, 2016
call the city and ask the fire marshall. Tom Inglesby, Broker, RE/MAX Equity Group.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 18, 2013
That's a great question and one that should only be answered by the City building/ planning dept.


0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Feb 18, 2013
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