FIRE SAFETY & PRACTICE
FIRE IS DANGEROUS.
THE SAFETY GUIDELINES HERE ARE MY OWN AND IN NO WAY GUARANTEE YOUR SAFETY.
DO NOT ATTEMPT TO WORK WITH FIRE WITHOUT A TRAINED PROFESSIONAL.
This safety document focuses on fire and fuel safety precautions and protocol only and not weapon or prop safety unless it has to do with the fire aspect of such. Many times fire is added to an already dangerous prop like the flaming sledge hammer pictured above used to demolish flaming cinder blocks on top of the stomach of someone who is laying on a bed of nails. The amount of risk in the situation becomes greater with every dangerous prop and of course with fire. A whip, a sword, or other various weapons are often set on fire and are a hazard in unskilled hands on fire or not since in many instances the prop or weapon can hurt you even without the fire. Make sure you are supervised by an expert before lighting any prop on fire. Please also respect the inherent danger of the props and weapons even without the fire and make sure to take all the proper lessons and precautions while training with such with or without fire.
There are many different ways to stay safe and people will have their preferences on what to do and so forth. In many instances these preferences are acceptable differences between people's individual likes and dislikes, but there is a bottom line. This bottom line cannot be crossed without dangerous consequences. I will introduce to you all my personal preferences, other safe preferences other performer's use successfully, certain preferences to steer clear of, and the bottom line on what MUST be done for safe practices and what CANNOT be done safely.
Some people think safety is important to keep the integrity of our profession and of course this is true, however this is secondary to the well fair of OUR PEOPLE and YOU. The most important reason for fire safety is to keep EVERYONE SAFE! When working with fire YOU are the one harnessing the flame and therefore YOU are responsible for the safety of everyone around you, the venue, and yourself. KEEP EVERYONE SAFE BY PRACTICING OUTSTANDING FIRE SAFE PROTOCOL. Here are some guidelines I live by. Let's begin.
If you get drunk or high then you are not only risking your own safety, but the safety of everyone else as well. The integrity of the art and keeping the reputation of all the industry is also at stake, but it is so secondary that I won't mention it further.
An aerial performer has great risks to their own body if they fall or make the wrong knot. They can be strangled or die from a fall, but usually can't hurt or at least can't kill a massive amount of people if they fail. If they happen to perform above an audience and fall they can land on someone or some people. Most likely no one on the ground will die (not always the case), but I have never heard of any one being killed or even hurt by an aerialist (not saying it has never happened). What I am saying is that aerialist mainly risk their own neck and only their own necks. Fire performers especially fire breathers and fire eaters risk their own safety, but the nature of fire (especially when performing indoors) makes fire performers a risk to others in a way far greater then most other professions. So when you are about to go on for 500 people snide a warehouse with limited (up to code) space and exits remember that the first priority is everyone's safety and then their entertainment. If you are not sober you have already decided to not prioritize safety or professionalism. You are the equivalent of driving drunk when performing with fire not sober.
THE RISK EVEN WITH SAFE PROTOCOL:
When performing with fire you are totally the one most at risk since the fire is closest to you and we know 99% of the accidents that happen only effect the performer. Even with safe protocol an accident can occur, although it is far less likely. More then half the time the accident is so minute that the audience won't even realize something went array since your professionalism will fool them by smoothly transitioning into the next move and hiding all traces of pain. Bravo.
This does NOT mean you are the only one at risk. The fire can spread to the audience or venue in half a heartbeat if you fail to use proper safety procedures. If you are indoors and the fire spreads quick in a crowded place with a mainly incoherent audience then it could be a mass killing. We have definitely heard of these types of tragic fires and thankfully none have occurred from a fire performer (to my knowledge). Let's keep it this way. Stay sober and keep everyone safe by practicing strict safety guidelines.
Here is a guide from my 11 years of training with fire in which 7 of those years I have been both working at a professional level and have been a fire eater and fire breather for. This guide gives fire dancers a very detailed perspective since it includes the more strict information fire eaters and fire breathers should abide to. Serious and professional fire breathers and fire eaters who continually ingest fuel and fire should consider their longterm health in this highly dangerous and very deadly art.
LEADS OF NUMEROUS FIRE PERFORMERS:
Fire eating and fire breathing are on a very different level then just fire dancing and should not be categorized as the same field in any essence. Use of certain effects such as pyrotechnics, charcoal, and other specialized fuels and techniques are also on a different level then classic fire spinning. I have often been the lead fire coordinator and director and at other times been under the lead of another fire profession. I have led productions with up to 40 performers or more and been a part of productions with over 500 performers. If fire eating and breathing or other special effects are part of the production the lead should never be a professional who is just a fire dancer and has little to no experience with higher level safety procedures. Just like managers at a restaurant need to be experts in every role under them from dishwashers to bartenders and need to be able to perform all the duties of such as well the lead of a larger fire production needs to be an expert in all techniques being used. I have not done gigs for the sole reason that the lead was not an expert in all the techniques they were heading therefore rendering them worthless in safety for anything more then simple fire dancing. Leads are meant to be the last line of defense that oversees everyone. If your lead is just a fire hooper or the like and is in charge of various fire techniques they have no experience and/or expertise with I recommend asking for a new lead or not doing the gig.
I have tried to make this guide user friendly so fire dancers not interested in fire breathing and fire eating could skip over those sections that do not apply to them. Fire Breathers and fire eaters should read all of the guide. People who wish to lead cannot rely on a guide to make them experts. Only experience can make someone an expert. ENJOY & GOOD LUCK.
PHOENIX'S FUEL OF CHOICE FOR WICKS ONLY:
WHITE GAS: I specifically use Coleman's Camping Brand. This is the most popular choice amongst fire folk. It comes in a silver and red aluminum 1 Gallon container and should NEVER EVER be used in one's mouth for fire breathing. The flash point on white gas is ridiculously low, in the simplest terms, it ignites instantly. This means if it spills or if one is so inclined to use it in a controlled burn on the ground, it will light in an instant and stay lit only for a few moments before the fuel evaporates and ceases to exist.
PHOENIX'S FIRE BREATHING & EATING FUELS OF CHOICE:
ULTRA PURE LAMP OIL & ONLY UPLO is what I use for fire breathing. I use 100% White gas on all my wicks even my fire breathing and eating torches. This means I use WHITE GAS for fire eating (on wicks only), which tends to burn quicker, hotter, and brighter. I NEVER LEAVE MY FIRE BREATHING FUEL UNATTENDED and usually attend to it myself. We will cover more on these choices in a bit.
PROPER CLEAN UP FOR SPILLED FUEL:
If one is ever to spill any type of fuel or oil proper clean up is a must. Use common sense. Anything you use to clean up is now highly flammable. If you use paper or cloth towels, you will probably have to burn them after. If you throw them away you are causing a hazard for the sanitation workers and anyone else who happens upon the ready to ignite waste. Put them in a burn barrel or a fire pit and burn them off properly. If this is not an option then put them in a sealed bag and burn them later (but make sure not to get fuel on the bag). Make it a ceremony or part of the act. Just do whatever to ensure it does not become someone else's problem especially if you make it someone's problem and they are totally unaware of the hazard Be smart about it. Clean it up, all of it, with cleaning products afterwards so it is NOT a fire or slipping hazard for anyone who is in the space after you. Even if you do not spill it when spinning with oils you should clean the floor since the spray off of spinning will likely make the floor slippery. Try and not to ruin the mystique of it all and have your safety clean it up. You are paying them after all and the performer should not be on stage except to perform. Burn all the evidence as not to pass it along to unsuspecting people as we already discussed. If you use cloth you can burn it after or clean it depending on the material. If the material is hazardous to burn try not to use it for clean up. If you do use hazardous material that you should not burn for fuel clean up then opt to wash it. Hand wash anything with fuel on it and avoid machines at all cost. Make sure to clean your hands thoroughly after and remember fuel is not good for drain pipes so do your best not to spill or use paper to clean up.
A controlled burn usually occurs on the ground (and in some instances can occur on other fire proof surfaces) and is the lighting of certain fuels poured onto the floor in various volumes and configurations. White gas is mainly what is used, but other fuels such as rubbing alcohol (which produces a much bluer flame) are also used. Make sure you are experienced enough to know the perimeters you are working with and the amount of fire that ignites from the quantity and kind of fuel(s) you use. Make sure the controlled burn is NOT near anything that is flammable or near water on the ground (which will make the fire travel). Have permission from the venue before hand. Clean up after as described above to make sure that both the fire and slipping hazards are eliminated.
NEVER USE WHITE GAS FOR FIRE BREATHING OR PUT IN YOUR MOUTH:
I will repeat this message to convey the seriousness of it. If you put white gas in your mouth or spill it on your skin it will absorb into you super quick and is HIGHLY toxic. NEVER use white gas to breathe fire with. If you try to spit fire with it the flame will backfire IMMEDIATELY into your mouth and can cause serious damage. Every performer who has done this has suffered severe burns from it (most the time it is from a fuel mix up or ignorance). Don't even consider breathing with white gas!!!! Even a small amount of white gas in your breathing fuel can cause the flame to backfire into your mouth. So make sure at all times your fire breathing fuel is separate, attended, and NEVER contaminated with white gas or any other fuels.
PROS OF WHITE GAS:
Now that I scared you about the dangers of white gas you are probably wondering why the hell so many and myself prefer white gas??? White gas is beautiful to work with on your wicks and is all I use for that purpose. White gas burns clean, smells less, and is the whitest brightest flame you can get, hence the name white gas. It is easy to find, relatively inexpensive, and once you understand the nature of the fuel it is great to work with.
MIXING FUELS, THE USE OF OILS, TIMING BURNS, & SPECIAL EFFECTS:
Some performers prefer a mixture of 50% white gas and 50% oil (either ultra pure lamp oil, tiki torch oil, etc.). Some people use ALL oil as well. Any oil used on wicks for spinning and especially for breathing can leave a residue on the floor that is super slippery and messy. It can cause people to slip or just otherwise leave a hot mess for a venue so clean up after yourself. Remember all the effects of the fuel you choose and use specific tools and fuels for specific jobs and clean up after the residue.
The reason some people prefer oils is because the flash point is higher, which actually means they burn LESS HOT and take more time to ignite. Oil burns also last longer, which could be a good or a bad thing. Some oils will also burn more orange and can be used as an effect if you prefer the fire to be less bright and white, however this is usually so minimal a difference that the audience won't know.
Some pyro effects can only be used with certain fuels, like sklitter. So consider your performance length and the effects desired when deciding on your fuel. When you have wicks that last 3-5 minutes and need to slim down the performance time on particular tools then go with a fuel like WG. In contrast if you need to extend the burn time on a particular tool adding an oil mixture or using just oil will help. Oil will remain in your wicks for many burns after even just one time use (and longer if used more frequently). This can change the burn time for your wicks for future burns so be prepared.
You can time your burns during rehearsal and get a pretty accurate time for your wicks with different fuels, but each choreographed piece might prove to have different durations even with the same fuel since the speed of your flow is a factor. So time each rehearsed piece to know the specifics and keep all the variables the same to ensure consistency.
WHITE GAS IS KEY TO VAPOR FIRE EATING MOVES:
WG is key to fire EATING NOT fire BREATHING. Many fire eaters use white gas on their eating torches to pull off any of the moves where the vapors must collect in your mouth lit or unlit like dragon's breathes and human candles. It is not the only option for these moves though. I cover some other later in Other People's Preferences.
Fire eating is a deadly art. No matter how great you are at it or how safe you are there is no way to eat fire and be healthy. When white gas is ignited it is carcinogenic, that is cancer causing. Putting this in your mouth and letting the vapors collect inside your mouth is poisonous, cancer causing, and long term dangerous. Be warned and art wisely.
NEVER INHALE WHEN FIRE EATING. Seems fairly obvious, but you may freak out when fire is in your mouth and forget, so DON'T forget! Hold your breath to hold the move, let go to show it off, and exhale sharply to put it out. Different moves have different forms, but that is something I will not write about here. The main point is don't inhale.
FIRE EATING AND FIRE BREATHING COMBUSTION & POISON PREVENTION:
We all are very proud of you for not blowing up your face or burning up your insides and certainly so happy you didn't hurt any one else or burn any place down. These are all very important fundamentals to fire safety. The deeper safety lesson is within you. I will be so super proud of you if you also don't get sick from your fire escapades. Let's go over some fire breathing and eating tips and then discuss preventative methods so you don't poison your body as much (however not poisoning yourself entirely is only accomplished when you retire from fire eating and breathing- like I have done).
For fire breathing I use ultra pure lamp oil as I mentioned. The flash point is high, which as we discussed means the opposite of what it seems (counter intuitive wording) so it ignites slower. If you spill it on the floor and try to light it you will look dumb because it will be a pathetic mess that never lights. Remember if you do spill it you need to clean it as described above since it is unsafe to have lying around both for fire hazards and slipping hazards (since oil is super slippery). It burns cooler and absorbs slower. So when you put it in your mouth it won't just go into your blood stream asap like white gas, but nonetheless it will absorb into your cells.
It also won't backfire into your mouth in an instant, but there have been many fire breathes I sustained for so long that the fire eventually kissed me. It's a high flash point, but a flash point all the same. Don't freak out, just stop spitting the fuel, grab the duveyteen over your shoulder and wipe your face. If your face is on fire, handle it. Calmly and with style if you can manage to.
Fire Breathers should always have a wipe down duveyteen on their shoulder that is a manageable size. Cause another way to ensure a flame back firing on you is by not properly and consistently wiping down between breathes. The 'kiss' can burn you just from being outstanding at breath work and fearless with fire, but you will feel it as it closes in and therefore can prevent it. Not wiping down is far different then the kiss since it can cause the fire to backfire on you in an instant rather then slowly. Nothing is full proof, know your limits. Have a safety blanket on your shoulder, an extra in reaching distance, as well as a safety person with a safety blanket at all times while fire breathing. Wipe all excess fuel in between breathes.
Be more cautious breathing in heavy fog, mist, rain or any like weather since it tends to drag the fuel down onto you more drastically. In such weather avoid vertical breathes. Wind, ACs, fans or anything that can change currents should be accounted for and the sudden changes in such can create hazards. To prevent any trouble adjust your breathing and eating to styles that can handle directional changes or distinct weather (like vertical breathes) and broaden your perimeter with the audience.
Fire Breathers and Fire Eaters are all a crazy lot of dangerous freaks, but let us make it a little less sick for you. We just discussed how not to blow your face up by using certain fuels with higher (and therefore slower to ignite) flash points like UPLO. We discussed fire eaters not inhaling to protect your vocal cords, lungs, etc. This seems obvious, but I have known many a fire performer who has had these misfortunes. A lot of times it is from a fuel mix up cause the fuel was left unattended, a performer's intoxication, ignorance, or just not having a good enough safety protocol. Either way it is on the performer to always be sober, capable, and to check their props and fuels before going on. The fuels all smell differently and I can tell what is what and if one has been mixed with another just by using my sniffer. So put your nose to the bottle and get to know your fuels.
Test the smells of fuels you know are pure, mix them and see how it differs, smell every type of fuel you can get your nose near, and bank it in your sensory memory. Then check before you go on EVERY TIME. If anything seems suspicious give it a lighter test using proper safety protocol. Check the flash point with this test and determine what fuel(s) it is. If you are still not sure find a reliable replacement fuel or remove it from the act. The show where you blow up your face is not the one we came to see nor the one you want to star in, so don't chance anything.
We will go over more prevention tips in long term health in a bit.
WHAT TO WEAR & WHAT NOT TO WEAR AS A FIRE PERFORMER:
If you fire breathe or fire eat please follow the more strict advice given.
NEVER wear hairspray, glitter spray, or any other sprays (glitter spray, bug spray, hairspray, sunblock, etc.) on your person and be careful of sunblocks, certain lotions and oils, as they can be highly flammable. All aerosols should be avoided for all fire performance. Be careful of any product or makeup you use and test it prior to performing. Use common sense and test the products prior to performing with them. When testing any product or material make sure to do so in a safe manner, preferably outdoors away from anything flammable. Always have a safety blanket and extinguisher handy when testing anything. REMEMBER Anything from an aerosol is a NO. This is already proven so you don't have to prove it further.
FIRE BREATHERS AND EATERS: NEVER wear glue on your face since it is can cause severe burns since glue melts. Fake eye lashes or glued on jewels are best avoided when breathing and eating. You may be able to spin fire with such if you remain cautious when doing so and know there is a higher risk with such.
Do wear organic materials such as cottons and leathers- if unsure test the material with a lighter in a safe environment as mentioned above. Stay away from anything with fringe even if organic. Do NOT wear feathers, tool, and the like since they are just begging to ignite and engulf super quickly. Even if feathers don't melt and are organic they ignite too quick to be proper fire wear, so take that into account when choosing organic options.
NEVER wear polyesters, spandex, nylon, and other materials that WILL MELT cause when they melt they do so onto your skin. If you test the material and it melts, DO NOT WEAR IT. Just imagine it melting on and then through your skin, ouch. Even though it is such a hot outfit and you love it save it for some other performance, melting goo on you is not the look you want, trust me. Melting materials are the cause for most 3rd degree burns for performers since the melting is quick and aggressive.
METHODS OF REMOVING EXCESS FUEL FROM WICKS PROPERLY:
Fuel WILL fly off if there is excess fuel on the wicks and there is always excess fuel unless you remove such or know how to keep it from becoming a hazard. So spin off, ring out, or know how to move so you don't send lit fuel from your prop into the audience or onto the venue.
One way to remove excess fuel is to use a spin off bucket for poi or certain props, however spin off buckets are very limited to certain types of props. Some people have created a spin off area where you spin off inside a certain hexagon shaped structure. Once the fuel is propelled off your wicks and onto the metal walls and ceiling it then collects back into a pan under the floor. That is a permanent structure and is not something that is often seen, however effective it is. With the spin off bucket you get the same effect as well as the benefit of saving fuel that you can pour back into the fuel canister. If you don't know anything about this let me explain. A spin off bucket is an empty canister (a popular one is an empty and clean paint can). You fit the poi or other props into it and make sure they don't hit the bottom. You rotate the bucket with props inside in a circle very fast using centrifugal force to spin the fuel off the wicks and into the bottom of the bucket. Make sure when you stop spinning to stall the bucket right side up so the fuel doesn't dump out of it. If the poi fall back into the fuel, well do it over, cause you done fucked up and the fuel is back where it started, on your wix!!
If you prefer (usually for outside but can be done inside) spin off on the ground after you fuel (with no prior spin off). Put your poi on the floor and drag them horizontally so they spin in a circle 1-3 rotations or spin them vertically at your side in circles with a lot of force to have the fuel hit the floor while still ignited (making sure no people are in the spin-off range). Obviously make sure nothing is flammable around you. Dry grass can even ignite so be smart. Come on people!!!
This is basically using excess fuel and your knowledge of physics to create a certain effect that spinning off or wringing out otherwise prevents. So this is a more advanced move since you really need to understand all the fundamentals of fuel and centrifugal force first.
PERMISSION: Also remember you wouldn't just light a cigarette in someone's house without permission. So make sure you have permission for these spin offs since it can damage property (lawn, pavement, wood, etc.). Unless it is your property you need to ask and to make the property owner aware of any slight damage that may occur.
The circle of fire or lines of fire created from the poi spinning on the ground is pretty intense and you are inside it, so be ready. When done right it is awesome, but it does raise the stakes of danger. The circle spin off on the ground also rips apart your wicks so when using this method keep a close eye on your tools and ensure their integrity.
That is great for poi perhaps even rope dart or a few other props, but what about all the other tools?
For hula hoop, staff, and other props where buckets fail there are chemical gloves that you can wear to squeeze the excess fuel from the wicks with. This can also be done for poi, fans, palms, anything really. This is the preferred method because the gloves are small, easy to transport, you save all the fuel, and it can be used on ANY tool. The gloves are inexpensive and protect you from getting fuel on yourself as well.
Let's say you are shit out of luck, no gloves, no bucket and you cannot spin off on the ground due to the venue not allowing such or you using a prop where it does not apply. Well some people spin off outside and pollute our mama Earth. I don't know. People do it, but I hate it!!!! This is NOT the responsible and professional way. I try to clean up after myself and I suggest you do the same. So buy the gloves and have them with you at all times. You will save money by not wasting considerable amounts of fuel and you will not be polluting the Earth with more chemicals.
In case you do forget your gloves and refuse to spin off outside you can have your choreo start super slow and allow the fuel to burn for 30-60 seconds before spinning the prop. Either that or burn the prop prior for the same time period, put it out, and then relight it for show. Both of these methods most likely will alter your choreograph and burn time.
BO-STAFF SPIN OFF:
With hoop, crowns, palms, fans, skirts, and other fire oddities fire gloves seem to be the only fit, but like poi, staff also has a fun spin off version that awes the crowd. You have to spin and toss it. The more rotation on the staff the bigger the blaze. Imagine a string on it and you pull it like a yo-yo and it rotates super quick. That is the effect you want. Instead of down you spin it up and away. Make sure the audience is a suitable distance away since this produces a major flame. People usually put one hand on top and one on the bottom (picture hands clapping or praying horizontally) and pull them in opposite directions to cause the best rotation while releasing the staff into the air, however a sting (wound like a yo-yo and then released) has been used and is super effective. The excess fuel will spit off the wicks and cause a huge blazing inferno upwards. People will wow when you do it right. This may have to be repeated to secure all excess fuel is burnt off 1-3 times and you will notice the flame gets smaller after each spin off.
NO MATTER HOW YOU SPIN OFF, WRING OUT, OR BURN OFF EXCESS FUEL: Be prepared for excess fuel to fly off in the beginning of a burn no matter how safe you were removing this hazard. Once you begin to spin the prop be mindful of any fuel flying off and have already positioned yourself, your safety, and the perimeter of the audience so no one will be in the zone the spin off could occur in. This is a great practice to do all the time and to set into your choreo as a safety precaution. Fuel can fly off No matter what method you choose. Besides directional changes and perimeters you can opt to start slowly. Slow is sexy anyway. The more time you spend with your wicks burning without spinning the more likely no lit fuel will be left to fly off them. If you are still unsure give it a slow spin and LOOK FOR YOURSELF. Like I mentioned before when you do this make sure NO ONE is in your line of fire. You know if you spin a two beat the fuel if any will go in a certain direction due to physics, so make sure that direction is clear. This is true of all moves, so do what you know is safe. When you know you are all spun out, go to town, no fuel will fly off now. You just have to remember the other countless fire safety tips, but at least you are done with the spin off portion.
When dipping your wicks you know they are filled when the bubbles stop.
Take them out, but keep them over the fuel cannister and let them drip dry.
Put the prop on an angle while they drip off so that you can avoid fuel dripping onto the prop, which potentially makes your grip both slippery and flammable.
Both of those can cause major problems so if any fuel gets on the prop wipe it down with the appropriate clean up protocol.
Once the dripping stops you are ready to spin off, wring out, or burn off the excess fuel.
PREVENTATIVE MEASURES is key with fire safety.
SAFETY PERSONS AND SAFETY BLANKETS:
I always suggest you be your own safety first AS WELL as have an experienced safety. For fire breathing and eating have a safety blanket on your shoulder. For all fire performance have an additional safety blanket available to grab that is not being used by the safety. These options are IN ADDITION to a competent fire safety and NEVER replace another person safetying you.
Since I trust myself above all others I have a fire safety blanket (preferably a duveyteen- but a wet cotton towel or canvas also work) on hand for all my burns AS WELL as a fire safety. I usually keep one blanket open on the ground where I can reach it and no audience or other obstacle is obstructing it. This is for my peace of mind and I have never had to utilize it, but I keep doing it all the same. This does NOT replace a safety person, that is someone else safetying you. The ratio is best 1 on 1, one performer to one experienced safety with a safety blanket. I limit the ratio at 2 to 1, 2 performers to 1 safety, and only allow such when it is safe to do so.
As I said cotton towels or canvas can be used in a pinch, but really just buy a shit ton of duvey and always bring it with you when you perform. Who cares if they say they are bringing them too, have your own. Don't complain when they are lost or "stolen"- cause they all look the same. If you buy a bunch you won't ever need a sub par replacement and at $5 a piece you cannot afford not to. I mean we are talking about your safety here. Scared of losing them? Paint your name on the fluffy side with non-flammable materials or use a non-flammable thread and sew your name in or add unique designs to make it yours. Just make sure whatever you add does not compromise the flame retardancy.
EXPERIENCED SAFETY & SAFETY PROTOCOL:
When I say an 'experienced' safety- I mean they better know what the hell to do in case of fire. Not everyone does and even common sense escapes certain people so be careful in choosing your safety. It is your responsibility to make sure your safety is competent. No one else is responsible for ensuring your safety is competent. You will never truly know until after they are put to the test and it is best to use a safety who has proven worthy. You can eliminate the ones who are surely not up to the task by talking with them prior. If you do not know them and they swear they are experienced or if you know them but are unsure their competency or if you are just unsure for any reason give them a safety pop-quiz or just tell them how you want to be safetied. Give them as much instruction until you feel in your gut satisfied with your safety person.
We all didn't figure this out overnight so don't judge a person's lack of knowledge. Help them learn, but if they won't pay attention to your lesson, cut them loose. If they have trouble paying attention to you when you talk they won't be good to watch over your safety and everyone elses' when you perform since it takes ALL their attention. Also anyone fearful of fire even in the least bit cannot safety.
It is your job, YOURS and no one else's, to a) make sure you have a safety with an approved safety blanket and b) make sure they know what they are doing and are more than capable of doing it!!!
So what does a safety do?? Well they don't sit on their behinds chatting it up with their friends half paying attention to you. No way!!!
They ARE ready to pounce on you, they know your name, they know the proper procedure, how to work a fire extinguisher, and they know how to smother a fire if need be.
Let's go through this step by step:
They are ready to pounce on you, and so they are standing so close to you. They are far enough so that they are out of any photo, video, and audience view when possible. There is no obstruction between them and you and they have a clear path to you that would take no more then 3 seconds to calmly walk. The closer the better, but clear of the space needed for the entire performance. They are holding the duveyteen fully open, staring you down, talking to know one, and eying you like the sacred performer you are whom they are there to protect.
They talk to the audience for crowd control only making sure people stay out of your perimeter, which you as a performer should go over with your safety prior to show time.
They are not in the show, but a part of it, so they are out of range of cameras and in a distinct area of the stage that has equal access to both performer and audience without interfering with the performance.
They dress in fire proof clothes so they can blend with the audience or my personal favorite in all black.
They know your name because if you are on fire, well they are gonna shout your name, the word FIRE, and the specific body part that is inflicted.
A bad example is Jane (the performer), Fire, arm.
A good example is JANE FIRE LEFT WRIST!!!!!!
Now Jane probably put that fire out herself cause she is a fearless one, but her trusting and awesome sidekick safety is already CALMLY on their way to her in the meantime.
The safety has to consider the fire and the performance, and does not want to be over zealous in their methods.
If the fire is already out of control then yes run to the scene, but if it is just a little residue fuel on the performer then they should be walking calmly. If at anytime the fire becomes large and unmanageable for the performer then they run, still calm. If an audience or part of the venue lights on fire the safety RUNS every time to the scene to extinguish it quickly, still calm as always. It may be out by the time they get their, but safeties should always assume that the audience has no fire safety protocol. This means they are needed immediately.
In the small residue fire occurrence the safety will most likely not be needed since most performers can handle such themselves and so as they walk calmly to the performer they access if the performer extinguishes it on their own and shouts a code word like OUT if they succeed. In such cases and wherever possible the safety should not interrupt the flow of the performer and the show. So pick a safety who is competent, but not overbearing. In these cases where Jane puts the fire out on her own, the safety should barely, if at all, be seen.
In the case where the safety is needed because Jane cannot put it out on her own, the safety must smother the flame. Before doing so have clear communication between performer and safety on where the lit props will be so that no more safety hazards occur and then suffocate the fire!!!
Don't pat it, don't be scared, don't back down, and definitely don't fan it!!! NEVER BACK DOWN. Jane is counting on you!!! Put your already open blanket around the fire, until the duveyteen drowns it. Tighten your grip around the inflicted body part for some time allowing no oxygen to get in to feed the flame. About 5-10 seconds to ensure most small fuel transfers are out , but this is all depending on the size of the fire.
Make sure the performer gives you the ok before removing the duvey. When you remove it, remove one part at a time to ensure flame is out. If not then repeat the process, but this time suffocate it for longer. If you pat it you feed it oxygen, so don't do that. Suffocate the FIRE!!!
SAFETY PRIORITY & PROCEDURE:
There are more than just the performers to worry about, so proper procedure is such; Audience, Venue, Performer.
In the rare and unheard of instance of all 3 setting on fire all at once and only one safety, follow this order. Performers are trained, they need to take care of themselves in an emergency like this and then move into safetying the audience and venue after their safety is secure (this is another instance where that extra safety blanket on the floor comes in handy).
If any body in the audience is set on fire (God and Goddess Please Forbid), but if it ever happens then they are the priority. The venue is second since a fire inside can obviously be deadly. The performer is last to be treated since they are trained and should know how to extinguish themselves in case of emergencies. Only the performer is on fire in 99% of these cases.
The nature of fire props and proper fueling doesn't really create big fires unless a highly combustible variable such as fire breathing, spinning off, or fire whip is involved or if proper safety protocol is ignored and fuel or flammable materials ignite.
FIRE EXTINGUISHER USE WHILE SAFETYING:
Safeties should have a fire extinguisher on hand that should ONLY be used as a LAST resort. Fire extinguishers are best used on a venue if it is set uncontrollably on fire and only on a person if they are truly engulfed in flame and a blanket won't help. They are mainly used to make the audience and venue owners feel safe and in case of these super rare emergencies. They really need to be present in case of extreme fire hazards. They cannot replace safety blankets since they should not be used in over 99% of the cases, but for the small chance of one being necessary please have one handy. Since safety blankets cannot replace fire extinguishers either they are a dynamic duo.
EXTINGUISHING PROPS WITH SAFETY BLANKETS:
Hopefully Jane and all the rest of us will NEVER need to use a fire extinguisher, however most likely you WILL need to use a safety blanket at one point. Sometimes blankets are used just to put out your tools when finishing a performance before the actual burn time is done. In this case, the safety should put the fire blanket down on the ground, the performer puts one wick on half of the blanket and the other half of the blanket is folded over it. When using multiple props, extinguish them one at a time, and always be aware of the lit one while extinguishing the other. Remember no patting, smother until it is suffocated. Not sure if it is out? Keep it on it a few extra moments, why not?
DO NOT use the same blankets for your fire safety as you do to put out your tools. Designate them one way or the other, but make sure they are clearly marked for safetying and extinguishing props as not to confuse the two.
Putting tools out on duveys will transfer the fuel onto them and make them more flammable and render them hazardous for safety. Imagine trying to put someone out and the 'safety' blanket goes up in flames. Now the safety has a fire hazard and the performer or whoever is still on fire. If you don't have the extra safety blanket on the ground like I recommend you may have no way of helping besides extinguisher, and if that is also something you neglected then you are into renegade measures. No one wants to have to rely on this.
So if you need to extinguish props have multiple blankets clearly labeled for their different uses. This is great. Now no one will confuse your "Jane- Safety Only" or "Jane- Props Extinguished" labeled blankets as their own either since labeling your blankets is a great way to not get them confused with other people's.
CHEMICAL TREATMENT OF DUVEYTEEN:
Lastly DO NOT wash your duveyteen. This is hard for me and my OCD since I want everything to be fresh and so clean, but they are chemically treated to be as fire proof as possible. If you wash them you will lose some of that treatment, but the material will remain a good 'in a pinch' safety option. I would recommend making the duvey damp if it no longer is treated to resist fire. If I can resist washing them, you surely can. This also means they have an expiration date since the chemical treatment won't last forever (usually one year, but check with your specific retailer). The duvey used to extinguish props will wear faster then the safety ones.
CHECK ALL DUVEYS BEFORE USE:
A simple lighter test in a proper safe setting to make sure they are working as they are meant to. Duveys have a fluffy side and a smooth side. The smoother side is the chemically treated side. Use that one for putting out fire.
SPRINKLERS AND CURTAINS:
I know "safety third" is a funny catch phrase, but really people make it first. Fire is dangerous. I mean really dangerous especially when you are performing in a crowded indoor space. Always check the venue and staging area to make sure it is fire suitable. Be careful of curtains and sprinkler systems. Fire can kill so that is our first concern, but both water and fire can equally damage property so be cautious of venues with sprinkler systems (most of which are heat and not smoke activated). I am not saying you can't just because it has a sprinkler system. I have enough times to wonder if those systems are even legit. You should stay away from the sprinkler heads and know that if there is a sprinkler system the risk of it going off is there. Choose wisely. Curtains or other materials, decorations, etc. are more of a problem because they can ignite quickly and cause a fire people may be stuck inside. Be aware of your surroundings, know your routine inside and out, the flame it produces, and the space needed. Be honest about it and only proceed when it is safe to do so
LONG TERM HEALTH:
I consider the long term in every move I make ideally. So what can be done so we don't die of cancer or some other sickness from our love of fire breathing & eating? How can we prevent hot flaming oil from hitting our eyeballs when we breathe fire? How can we keep the fuel from entering our bodies as much as possible? There are so many things to do in the preventative realm. So let's get started.
FIRE SPINNERS- wear a mask or a bandanna over your mouth and nose to prevent inhaling the fumes. Obviously if you are performing and this is against your desired effect/look then you will probably opt not to do this, but why not save inhaling the fumes when training and rehearsing? This is a good habit. It makes a difference. When you eat and breathe fire the fumes you inhale from spinning fire seem inconsequential, but this isn't true. They are still dangerous, but no where near as poisonous as the severity of eating and breathing fire. This does not mean they should be overlooked. Limit your exposure by covering your nose and mouth. Learn to exhale when the fire is close to your face to prevent from breathing in the fumes as much as possible when not wearing a mask and to avoid breathing in the flames.
FOR ALL FIRE PERFORMERS: If you don't want to wear a mask or bandanna around your nose and mouth or can't cause you are fire eating or breathing you will get black boogies. There is the neti pot. You can do this steamy watery thing after you spin to rid yourself of the black boogies. It won't prevent you from inhaling fumes like a mask, but it can clean out the smut in your nasal passages. Steam showers can work well too for this purpose. They heat up so hot you pretty much feel like nothing could survive the heat.
Everyone should shower, scrub, clean clothes, brush mouth, blow nose, clean eyeballs, and thoroughly get the fuel OFF of you everywhere!
SHOWERING EVERY TIME YOU WORK WITH FIRE: At the end of the night a shower is a must. I don't care if you ate it, spit it, spun it, or did all of it, get that poison off of you!!! Scrub like you never scrubbed before. Scrub your mouth, inside your nose, clean your eyeballs if you can (not sure you can- but tell me if you figure out a way). Get so clean so the fuel does not continue to seep into your blood. Anytime you spill fuel on your skin or it transfers on you from working with fire, clean that area immediately with soap and water. Then at the end of the night clean every area with a long and determined shower focusing on getting all the residue off of you. All of it.
FIRE BREATHERS AND FIRE EATERS- Well that is the obvious starting place for fire safety. I have figured some not so obvious things out along the way mainly to do with fire eating and fire breathing since the immediate safety of such does not protect the performer from the long term effects. Why be anything less then perfectly cautious when it comes to our health while yielding fire?
First off, when breathing fire straight up the fuel tends to fall straight down. Go figure, gravity is real!!! Even when we breath straight out the fuel is a hot mess all over us. Well my eyeballs and skin were wondering what the hell was happening to them. My skin is super sensitive and when that thing called gravity pulls the oil down and the fuel lit or unlit hits your eyes and/or the rest of your skin it is very bad for you.
When I first began fire breathing I was still ignorant to the effects of lamp oil on my skin. I would wipe myself down not to ignite my face or chest, but I didn't thoroughly clean my skin until I got home or the end of the night. I waited longer to wash it off then I should have. The lamp oil (not the fire), just the residue of oil on my skin that came back down and seeped into my pours cut through layer of my skin until the areas bled. That is called chemical burn and it ain't pretty or healthy. So now I know to rinse off IMMEDIATELY. Not 30 mins later, but 5 seconds after each act. That means I wash off in between all the acts in a night with soap and water. After EACH ONE and not just the last one!!! Let people congratulate you and tell you what a great performance that was after you have rid your skin of the toxic chemicals. You owe no one your time and especially not at the expense of your health. If they cannot understand then they are not worth your time anyway. You want the fuel off your skin not just for the chemical burn aspect, but because the longer it sits the longer time it has to seep into your blood. Fuel in your blood is not good, not good at all.
Eyeballs are important. When fire breathing the fuel lit or unlit is really bad for your skin as explained above it can literally cut you like a knife and make you bleed. Now imagine his effect on your poor little unsuspecting eyeballs. The intensity of the fire's heat is also not good for your eyes and can cause scarring in the whites or even over the iris (usually from sustaining large breathes for long periods of time). I have 3 scars on the whites of my eyes from fire breathing too hard. You can wear goggles when breathing to ensure lit or unlit fuel won't fall into your eyes and to have a heat barrier. Imagine a flaming bit of fuel falling from your spray and landing smack on the lens of your new goggles. This should prove their importance. Had the goggles not been there that flaming bit of fuel would have hit your eyeball instead. Even without the flaming fuel hitting your eyes my eye doctor told me the heat and intensity of the light could cause scarring all on its own. Googles don't always seem like the character you want to portray but perhaps safety should be first.
I breathe up in certain conditions for other safety reasons, but if you hate the idea of goggles and don't have other safety concerns then just breath at a slight angle to ensure no fuel can land on you. You may still have a problem with the heat and light if you hold the breath for long periods, but at least you eliminate the fuel backfiring onto your eyes if done properly. Any protective angle where you are safe from the downfall will suffice here.
Goggles need to get wiped down frequently and cause limited vision so they have their cons. They also don't go with every character so there is the aesthetics too. You can make putting on your goggles part of your act and have the audience anticipate a much more dangerous portion of your fire breathing by doing such. I mean you need safety goggles so obviously it just got more real. People usually enjoy the anticipation and the build up, and if you draw them in with more antics by snapping the goggles on to your face or putting them on backwards and turning in circles or whatever works for your theme then you could make it pretty damn funny. Then it can be really great. If you want to be more serious then just put them on and blow some serious fire balls. Either way let them wait for your greatness since fire breathing is a short stunt having some filler is good. If you are part of a big production then your goggles will probably go unnoticed and your gigantic breathes of fire will be all that is seen.
Goggles limit your vision. Breathing horizontal with them or on any plane 6 feet and under should be done with extreme caution. I do NOT eat with googles on cause I need perfect vision for eating and cause the nature of eating fire and the size of the flame does not effect my eyes in the same way as breathing. Breathing vertical almost guarantees no one will get hit by your enormous balls of fuego since it will fly above everyone's heads (assuming there is no one above you on a balcony or such). So I say almost because you have to make sure in each instance that all perimeters including up are clear. Whereas horizontal breathes are done on the same planes as people and so there is space you canNOT allow your fire to cross into. You need to be aware of your spray, the wind, and your vision needs to be spot on to pull this off safely. Be SUPER AWARE of your surroundings when breathing fire all of the time. Setting fire to a venue can be as dangerous if not more of a risk then setting fire to a person since it can trap people in a burning inferno. So if you are not confident about your perimeter DO NOT breathe in it.
POISON ABSORPTION PREVENTION FOR FIRE BREATHERS & EATERS: Fire breathing and fire eating is a ritual for me. On stage the show has a very meditative concentration as well as a heart pounding supercharged energy. Behind the scenes, before and after the show, I begin with a ritual. I start with a little flax oil rinse, which I have in a small plastic bear shaped jar that I treat as I do all my fuels. I swish and swish until my entire mouth is coated in the flax oil and finally I SWALLOW (yes I know I am the Queen of 'that is what she said' jokes- even without meaning to be), but more to the point I want to coat my throat with the flax oil as well as my mouth. I wet my hair or put it up, only wear fire safe material (hat or bandanna) on my head, and prepare my goggles if they are being used. I have a safety blanket ready for me positioned accordingly, a blanket to wipe my mouth with on me, as well as an experienced safety (fire breathing and eating safeties should be the highest caliber of safeties- so no newbies).
I wash my skin in between each set. When I am done with my act or in between each set I get my bear full of flax oil and I swish and swish making sure to touch every part of my mouth and gums, but this time I SPIT. I repeat if necessary. Then I use mouth wash in the same fashion. Finally I swish water in the same way, spitting everything out of my mouth and not swallowing anything. After I have fire ate or spit once in the night I do not ingest anything for quite some time. I continue to swish and spit mouthwash and/or water for that entire duration. This ritual happens in between each separate act and may occur several times in one night if I breathe and eat multiple times. I do not eat or drink until at least an hour after my final fire eating and/or breathing performance repeating the rinsing ritual and adding in a toothbrushing about a half hour after the final breath or eating has occurred.
When I get home I brush my teeth and mouthwash with my shower to ensure nothing is left in my mouth. Do this like you have OCD and must remove all germs from your skin, but instead of germs you actually are removing quite poisonous fuels. Remember brushing hard is actually not good for you, so although you want to brush well that does not mean recede your gum line. The next day my mouth is pretty happy, however if I don't do this I will burp up gasoline for 24-48 hours afterwards. My mouth will hurt and I will be stuck eating or rather sucking on cucumbers and avocado to try and reverse the effects. So I do this- and I do this every time. Your teeth will still suffer from eating fire and there really is no prevention for this, but you can lesson the damage.
CHARCOAL PILLS & DETOXIFYING METHODS: These will supposedly extract anything you missed, so just get over it and do it. Go to any drug store and grab any brand. Another way to clean yourself out after putting so much poison in your body is with nutrition. I am a vegetarian, practically a vegan, and drink cold pressed juices on the reg. I up the anti after fire breathing and fire eating to cleanse my body of those horrific fuels. The healthy effects of a vegan diet such as the cleansing effects of boosting healthy cells by a mainly raw vegetable, raw fruit, and cold pressed juice diet is actually proven to cure cancer (Max Gerson circa 1920s- check it). The logic is if it can cure it then it can also prevent it. This is not a full proof plan, nothing is, but every bit helps. I believe it does help, so I would be a fool not to do my best in regard to my health and so would you.
CHEMICAL PNEUMONIA: I have not been inflicted by chemical pneumonia as far as I know, however at times I felt so sick that I may have had it and just not been willing to admit such. Although a few fellow performers I know have had this sickness from breathing fire so it certainly is a possibility. This can be caused from swallowing the oil, breathing too much in one session, being more susceptible to it, or an array of other factors. Someone I watched go through this looked absolutely miserable and wound up in the hospital. Many a professional has gone to the hospital for this. So be warned the side effects of breathing are very scary and very real!!
TO TRY AND COMBAT CHEMICAL PHENOMENA: The only sure way not to get chemical Phenomena from breathing fire is not to breath fire. Here are some tips to lower the odds, but in no way guarantee anything. Be sure not to leave fuel in your mouth for extended periods of time, never swallow fuel, use the flax oil/mouth cleansing ritual, know your limits and set your boundaries. Nothing is full proof, but the flax oil will help slow down the absorption of the lamp oil in your mouth. It really works wonders for fire breathing. Remember most directors and such will work you past reasonable or safe limits, tell them before hand how many takes they have to get the shot in. They have no idea about fire most likely and you are the expert. So be the expert and be your body's boss. If your body needs to stop and you need to re shoot another time then do not let anyone talk you into another take. You are the boss of your health. You alone can determine your limits and set your boundaries.
CHECKING PROPS: Just like you check your fuels as a fire breather and fire eater and even as a fire dancer you also need to check your props to make sure they are secure and not going to malfunction. You check your fuels to ensure they are exactly what they are meant to be. You check your props to make sure they won't fly off or fall apart. Kevlar degrades so you need to make sure the integrity is still there or you need to replace the wicks. Most props have moving parts, like quick links, which can and often do open in time if not repeatedly tightened. This could send a flaming poi head out into the audience. Other props have screws that can loosen and have the same hazard. Always know your props intimately. It helps to make and wick your own to have a clearer understanding of how they function. Have no doubt such will remain safe for your performance. Use those beautiful eyes of yours with that amazing vision and observe their functionality. They are either a go or they are not. You need to know and you need to act accordingly.
FUEL STATIONS & CONTAINERS: I prefer my military ammunition case. It is the perfect size, fits about 3/4 of a gallon of white gas or a double wide will fit an entire gallon including the container it came in in it. It has a handle and is water proof so it won't leak. Although you need to remove the fuel from it after every use or the seal will deteriorate to keep the water proof capabilities. The seal can deteriorate over time even if you remove all fuel and therefore will need to be replaced if such occurs or the ammo can will leak. The ammo can also fits all different size wicks.
Ammo can along with a safety case, which will need to be a bit bigger then the ammo case (I use a black metal tool box that I waterproofed) so the ammo case can fit inside it. This is called the double bucket system and ensures that any fuel that spills will fall into another waterproof and safe case. Then you can funnel it back to the original container and wipe it down. Both these containers shut with locks and should be locked after every time someone dips unless another person is going to dip immediately . Use the open door metaphor. You close the door after you enter unless someone is right behind you then you leave it open for them and they close it right behind them. Anyone using any fueling station needs to know this.
A designated safety should attend the fuel station if there are multiple performers using the same one. Gloves should be provided as well for these stations and a safety blanket for the safety as well as an extra for the station. No one but performers and the safety designated to the area should be near the fuel dump. The safety should regulate this as well as make sure no fuels are mixed, containers left open, nor flames near by. All fuel dumps should be out of site and certainly out of the range of fire. Smoking is not permitted any where near the fueling area. Never leave fuel areas unattended. If the show is over close down the fuel area and lock up all fuels so no one can get to them and cause a fire hazard.
FIRE BREATHING AND EATING FUEL STATION SAFETY: I have a separate fire breathing and eating kit. This kit should be clearly marked, locked up in the same fashion as above, attended AT ALL TIMES, and far enough away from the spinning fuel dump to ensure it is not compromised. It should still be in the fueling area, but not near the fuel dump kit for fire spinners. The cross contamination can be deadly and needs to be avoided by keeping the fuels as separate as possible. My kit for breathing and eating has a smaller container of white gas in a small metal water bottle with a skull on it and clear warning labels for my eating fuel. My eating torches can fit into the mouth and it does not leak. I use a bottle with an easy seal cap for lamp oil that when closed is leak proof and can be opened with a quick twist. The bottle can be plastic or metal and is clearly labeled for FIRE BREATHING ONLY DO NOT TOUCH etc. The kit also has two small bottles of Listerine, a small bear shaped plastic bottle of flax oil, my toothbrush, tooth paste, goggles, a plastic bottle of water, a small safety blanket, and my torches. EVERYTHING IS CLEARLY LABELED AND IN VERY DIFFERENT LOOKING SPECIFIC CONTAINERS!!! It all fits into another bucket labeled fire or in a black leather bag I have. I do not leave any fuels unattended, but these I usually attend to myself and trust no one with. I will lock them up where no one has access to when I cannot watch them.
OTHER SPINNERS USE THESE TYPES OF FUEL DUMPS: Some people prefer spin off buckets (clean metal empty paint cans). They bring their fuel in the Coleman's container, bring another bucket to double dip in (a 5 gallon plastic bucket), a funnels, and gloves. That is fine, but I prefer metal containers over plastic and desire style as well as function! Also I prefer compact and efficient and find my set up to be superior in all areas.
WHAT TO USE AND NOT USE TO TRANSPORT, STORE, & USE FUEL: To carry your fuel, NEVER use glass- it breaks. Plastic is ok for short term holding of fuel or certain types of fuels (like UPLO) but it can melt so be more aware when using it. Metal is my preferred method for fuel. It won't break or melt.
REMEMBER: Always man your own fuel station or have a trustworthy safety who is in the know do it. When you go to perform have a safety for you with blanket, a safety for your fuel making sure nothing is tampered with or goes array, and a safety with a fire extinguisher is ideal especially with bigger productions. If it is a smaller production the safety can man the extinguisher and you and you can lock up the fuel during your performance so it is safe. You must coordinate the details, preferably before you arrive. In any instance where there are multiple performers there should always be someone caring for the fuel dump area. This area should also be smoke/fire free and far from the audience and performance area. The fuel area is a designated area for performers. You can use it to put tools, personal belongings, and all other items in it if there is room as long as you put such items far from the fuels.
If the fuel spills follow the cleaning protocol mentioned in this document above. It sucks, but you gotta do it. I have never had this happen- knock on wood. Putting your fuel dip inside another waterproof case is 99% accident proof. So if the fuel spills, it spills inside this second bucket or case. This is a great idea you need to use. It really is a great preventative method to NEVER spill fuel. Just think, if the fuel spills from case one into case two, you funnel it back into case one. No big hassle of a clean up and no hazard. If by chance the fuel sets fire, close case number two and eventually it will suffocate itself, again no hazard. Since case two is not a holding fuel container it will be much easier to close then the filled to the brim case one that is what is likely on fire. So there is logic behind this all past just the spilling hazard.
FIRE SPINNERS: Dancers practice with practice poi, wood sticks, hula hoops etc. that are not wicked. Once ready to begin with fire then they practice with fire tools not on fire. Once an understanding of the difference between the practice props and fire props is understood they can dip, light, and see the difference once the weight of fuel and the resistance of fire is added. Remember to only do this with a safety and a trained professional. The skills come in phases. Even if you have trick nailed off fire that doesn't mean it is performance or even fire ready. So be prepared to practice on fire before you bust it out for a performance. Always make sure you can nail your tricks 90% of the time before using them for performances. Safety is definitely first in the integrity of our profession, but being polished is certainly next. Performers should cater to their audience as well as their own artistic desires, and this should not allow for drops or other mistakes during your act.
FIRE BREATHERS: Breathing fire is all breath work and fluid manipulation with your mouth. So practice by spitting water first in the shower, outside, wherever you can. Do the trick with water exactly how it needs to be done with fuel and fire. Pretend you have a torch or make a practice one you can get wet so that this element can be involved in your practice since many moves require specific torch placement. Spit the water, sustain your breathes, change planes, do the stunts. I do this even without water and with just my breathe as well. When you feel confident, do it with fuel and fire. Breathing exercises are great. Do anything to strengthen your breathing.
FIRE EATERS & FLESHING: You can practice by eating spicy hot foods. Just kidding. Although getting your mouth capable of eating super hot foods could help your endurance to sustain fire in your mouth it will not ensure such. There really is not much to do except to put the fire in your mouth and see how much pain you can sustain. You can practice routines off fire just to remember the movements without having to eat fire, but the only way to truly practice will be on fire. Fleshing is the art of setting fire to your skin and has a host of amazing tricks. These tricks include lighting your skin on one end (let us say your shoulder) having fuel trailed (done prior to lighting)across a line that reaches an unlit torch (let's say at your wrist) that lights as soon as the fire reached it or using fire eating vapor ticks to light the trails therefore combining fleshing and eating, or a ton of other moves. Always wash thoroughly after such. Water on practice torches (not your fire eating torches can be used to find the perfect pressure that releases the correct amount of fluid onto your flesh to both ensure the move works and does not burn you. This can also help you with the timing and choreographing, but in the end the real deal is the real trial.
OTHER PEOPLE PREFER THESE FUELS:
*****I CANNOT SAY FOR CERTAIN IF THE INFORMATION ON THESE OTHER FUELS & METHODS BELOW IS TRUE SINCE I HAVE LIMITED USE WITH SUCH THEREFORE I SUGGEST NOT USING THEM.
I am not going to talk about this in depth, because it isn't what I use and therefore I know far less about it, but still here is some information on what other performers prefer.
KEROSENE: People use this on wicks and it smells gross. NEVER use this in your mouth for breathing, because it is hazardous and backfires!!! Most performers really hate other performers using this cause it contaminates the air with a nasty smell, and can get mixed in with their white gas and really piss them off. I say just say NO!
TIKI TORCH OIL: People use this on wicks (beginners usually) since it is a cooler and longer lasting flame. If you pour it on the floor it won't light, but if you spill it clean it up as if it would. Any oil will leave a residue on the floor and cause it to be very slippery so be cautious with this and other oils. I have seen a performer bite it due to the oil after breathing or just from a spinner using it on their wicks and it spraying on the floor so clean up after yourself. You CAN breathe with Tiki Torch Oil, but I have heard it makes one more susceptible to chemical pneumonia. I do NOT use tiki torch fuel for anything besides tiki torches really, but I have in a pinch.
LIGHTER FLUID: This surprisingly works for wicks and fire eating, but NEVER for fire breathing. I have used it when nothing else was available for fire eating. I was able to do my vapor moves, but it has a nasty smell and taste. I also just did not feel very safe using it since I have limited experience here. The flash point is quick so it will backfire or light in controlled burns. I do not suggest using lighter fluid, but definitely am telling you not to for fire breathing.
RUBBING ALCOHOL: If you pour it onto the floor it will light so the flash point is relatively low. It has a bluer flame and can be used for effects in controlled burns. This will not be seen on wicks as clearly as it is in controlled burns. Rubbing Alcohol almost looks like a sea of fire when a pool of it is lit. I use it for controlled burns on the ground and to clean things. Again if you spill it or use it in a controlled burn clean it up properly especially since it has a quick ignition time. If it will light on fire on the ground then it can light on fire in your mouth. So NO to breathing with it. I heard about it being good for eating because it is cooler and safer, but only have ever heard of it being used in a mixture. I am not sure it will pull off the more advanced tricks. Either way it only ever is to be used on your wicks or on the ground. NEVER pour in your mouth. I am unsure the mixture used for fire eating with such so I use white gas, which is considerably hotter and harder to eat. Talk to someone (a professional) who knows about this before attempting.
GASOLINE (like for vehicles and such): Any type of gasoline- diesel, regular, supreme, it doesn't matter, all types are to be avoided at all costs. I don't care which it is, JUST SAY NO! None of them are safe for wicks, controlled burns, and certainly not for eating or breathing.
151 AND OTHER HIGH VOLUME DRINKING ALCOHOLS: I have seen this used for fire breathing and it was not very impressive. The flame looks like a pathetic attempt at being a dragon. I also heard it was dangerous, but it didn't seem so. One professional swears it is and I will believe this and tell you to JUST SAY NO. So be warned. The claim is that it can backfire into your mouth due to the flash point. Either way I prefer the real deal and I also listen to people's warnings so I don't have to learn the hard way.
CORN STARCH, FLOUR, POWDERED SUGAR & THE LIKE: Finely powdered substances are flammable. Some are used for fire breathing and it is a hot mess! I also heard it was more dangerous in the long term, can be inhaled immediately, can cause Chemical Pneumonia still etc. I am not sure if this is true because I have never used any of them. I just say NO.
INSURANCE: Well what about those unpreventable accidents? Well we hope that with a strict safety regiment that all accidents are preventable and since we all follow such a strong code of safety no accident ever occurs. In life there are no guarantees just insurance. For that less then 1% chance of failing you should have coverage. Fire/Performance insurance is relatively inexpensive between $300-1000 a year depending on your plan and agent. The most basic plan will assure you get more paid gigs than without it.
I personally work with Steph at www.SpecialtyInsuranceAgency.com, but there is also http://www.nafaa.org/fire_ins.html
. Check them both out and any others you can find. BUY A POLICY. It will pay itself back in one gig that you would NOT have otherwise have been eligible for without same insurance.
When filling your application be as specific and detailed as possible to make sure all your stunts and props will be covered. This is the one time I will say more is better then less. Put everything you could possibly imagine doing or using in the application so if you need it to be covered it will be. Save the less is more for show time.
Always bring a copy to give to the venue owner/manager when performing and have a digital file to send to same before event. About 50% of my clients require insurance so without it I would be out half my work!!
CLOSING COMMENTS: After 7 years of professionally eating and breathing fire I am both sad and happy to have retired. The health benefits are tremendous and I felt better right away and continue to feel the effects as I heal more everyday. The spiritual and metaphoric benefits are also quite surreal, but that is a personal revelation (feel free to ask me about this privately if you are considering or are a fire breather and/or fire eater). Fire breathing and fire eating are certainly rare professions and so many gigs were doing such so it is unfortunate not to be able to continue this for that reason. Not having those gigs is secondary to just missing the rare and unique art of fire breathing and eating. Although I do not regret retiring for a moment I definitely miss and love the power that comes through me when I breathe fire and the mystery that unfolds inside me when I eat fire. There really is nothing else like it in the world and I miss it at times. I love my health more and aerial flight has filled this void in a positive way by both filling me with passion for the art and by bettering my body in ways I never imagined. I have a dragon's heart inside me so I understand your desire to breathe and eat fire and certainly would never judge you. I just want you to be aware of your risks so you can make informed choices that empower your spirit.
Stay safe, burn bright, and be awesome! -->>Phoenix-->