Yesterday, I walked by the fire department and paid $20 for a residential burning permit good through next May. It can be used only for burning yard waste. Somewhat to my surprise, burn barrels are prohibited. When I asked why, I was told because most of them are old chemical/oil storage drums and even if they seem clean, they still release toxins. Moreover, they are said to be inefficient at burning. That last I can see, because people don't know to cut holes at the base like Lisa showed me in Mehama. When you do it that way, you get a really efficient hot fire.
Here's the burn barrel we were using in Mehama. With the holes in the bottom and the ventilation provided by setting it on a grate, you can see that we got it really hot. Of course we also had the hose ready in case anything got out of hand.
There are only a few places on our property where we can safely do a burn pile, but we'll try, when we get a chance and the weather conditions are right (no wind!), to burn some of the brush piling up around the property.