Ocean Beach Fire Pits

Last night I went to the opening of the Ocean Beach Fire Pits. Rbca and Yasi’s fire pit was ready and burning. There was another one there as well. :-) This is a huge thing. Public, utilitarian, (mostly privately) funded art made by my friends :-)

Sorry I don’t have photos but here’s some extra info…

Ocean Beach Fire Pits – Burners without Borders

Last year, the National Park Service almost banned fires on Ocean Beach in San Francisco, due to consistent problems with trash and debris. Since then they have received thousands of letter and are considering designs for permanent fire pits to be installed April 14.

But just making the designs isn’t enough–we need your help! Namely, we need to raise money to pay for this art. Although the Park Service could only offer $3,000 for the project, we’ve already been able to raise $27,000 of the $42,000 needed.

What you can do: check out these designs, and then go to our donate page and make a contribution. You can contribute directly to BWB via PayPal

Burning Man artists create 12 fire pits to be installed on Ocean Beach, allowing tradition to resume

There have been fires on Ocean Beach as long as there has been sand on Ocean Beach.

That cherished San Francisco tradition almost died when the National Park Service announced last year that it was banning beach fires because they made too big a mess.

But the fires will return — in 12 elaborate fire pits designed by the people who bring you Burning Man.

“It’s really an amazing project,” said Tom Price of Burners Without Borders, which worked with the Park Service to solve a problem that has vexed the government for years. “It took what was going to be a tragedy — the loss of open-air fires on the beach — and made it into an open-air museum of public art.”

Eight artists are building the pieces with steel, concrete, glass and other materials to ensure that the pits are as durable as they are beautiful. The Park Service will install them between Fulton Street and Lincoln Way on April 14. The Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit group dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans and beaches, will keep them clean.

The five designs selected by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area resemble seashells, starfish and flowers. Some are shaped like bowls that glow from fires within, creating a kaleidoscope of color. Others look like saucers with fires burning brightly above them.

“It’s amazing that the artists have come up with so many incredible designs,” said Dan Macchiarini, who is fashioning “The Wave” from recycled steel bars, wire mesh and concrete bricks. “There’s not a piece that I don’t like, and that’s rare when you get 8, 9 or 10 artists together.”

“The Wave” is a bit abstract. It is a bowl that undulates like the surf. Iridescent blue and green glass will make it shine like the inside of an abalone shell.

Macchiarini, a Burning Man devotee since 1998, grew up in San Francisco and has spent a lot of time sitting next to fires on Ocean Beach. The delicate jewelry he creates in his North Beach studio contrasts sharply with massive public art he assembles in his Visitacion Valley garage.

“This is the kind of art I do best,” he said. “It’s art that people actually use. It’s not tucked away in a museum.”

The Park Service has long tried to manage a decades-old tradition that can see as many as 100 fires burning on a warm night.

That creates a big mess, and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area was spending about $90,000 a year picking up charred wood, broken glass and other trash. Volunteers recently cleared more than 100 pounds of nails — left behind after wooden pallets were burned — from a swath of beach 200 feet wide near Stairwell 16.

Park Superintendent Brian O’Neill decided about a year ago that enough was enough and banned beach fires. That didn’t sit well with the public, which sent more than 3,000 letters and e-mails protesting the decision. The Ocean Beach Foundation took up the cause, joining Burners Without Borders and Surfrider in suggesting that local artists design fire pits.

“We didn’t want the Park Service to act unilaterally without hearing the concerns of the community,” said Jake Beinecke, beach cleanup program manager for Surfrider. “Our goal was finding a way to preserve the fires while addressing the concerns of the Park Service.”

The Park Service loved the idea, especially after the Burners agreed to pay for the fire rings — they’ve raised more than $28,000 in donations so far — and Surfrider agreed to keep them clean. Thirty artists submitted proposals of every size and description; the finalists were selected in January.

“It was inspiring to see Ocean Beach viewed, finally viewed, as a public space worthy of that kind of commitment,” said Rudy Evenson, who is coordinating the fire ring project for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Evenson said the fire pits will go a long way toward keeping the beach tidy by limiting the number of fires on the beach to 12 and keeping them in specific locations. And they will lend an artistic flair to a beach many complain has been neglected far too long.

“Our hope is that people will see something beautiful and want to be a part of it and maintain it,” Beinecke said. “It will make the beach cleaner and in turn influence how people view the beach and treat the beach.”


  1. I have been looking for photos of the actual fire pits all day on Flickr, do you know where I can find some? We are trying to do the same thing in Toronto (the north coast, haha) so if you could e-mail me a link to some photos, that would be amazing :)

  2. Lee says:

    I’ll forward your request to a couple friends and get back to you in email. You’ll have your photos! You should definitely contact Burners without Borders. Check out their page on the fire pits. And I know for a fact that some of the artists are interested in getting their work on more than just Ocean Beach.

  3. patio fire pit says:

    I’m glad to hear there is an organization to save such a wonderful project. I live in Providence, RI and we have a water fire that 30,000 people show up for and its really an amazing event especially since it brings the whole city together. Between the music, dancing and of course the fire its amazing. We had similar problems with the economy but we are making it through and the event is still a success. I wish you guys the best of luck there.

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