That did look like fun, the bonfire must have been something else!
I don't have large clearings like that, so I have to burn a much smaller pile. After nearly setting a tree on fire at my old house, I've learned to manually add brush in small doses to a fairly small fire pile.
I basically stack brush, twigs, etc. all spring, summer and fall; then move it one handful or wheelbarrow load at a time to a burn area in the winter. Takes forever to get rid of it all, and that's just keeping up with the stuff that falls on its own...