BURN & FIRE SAFETY PERIMETER GUIDELINES
Implementation Of A Successful Burn
Burning Man embraces the use of fire as an art form in ways that no other event ever has, and we take as much pride in our safety record as we do our ability to burn. It is every artist's responsibility to help Burning Man maintain this safety record, ensuring that we can all use fire in the ways that make our event one-of-a-kind.
Before you consider creating art that utilizes fire, you must take into consideration the following guidelines, compiled by Burning Man's Fire Art Safety Team (FAST) to assist you with creating and exhibiting fire art safely. While we understand that these guidelines are extensive, it's critical that you read them completely.
Whether you're incorporating Open Fire (classification OF1), Flame Effects or Pyrotechnic Displays as part of your artwork, you will need to establish a perimeter around your installation to protect participants from potential injury and hazards. Most of what we'll be dealing with here is regarding Open Fire (e.g. the burning of large-scale wooden structures), but in cases where you'll be using large scale Flame Effects and Pyrotechnics, the size and details of your perimeter will be determined on a case-by-case basis through conversations with the Fire Art Safety Team.
If you have any questions please contact:
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PLANNING FOR A SUCCESSFUL BURN
Step One – Pre-Playa Planning
– Read Safety Protocol Documents
- Fire Safety Perimeter Manager
- Perimeter Specifics
- Zones Of A Burn
- Perimeter Size
- Safety Corridors
- Identifying Perimeter Crew
- Quadrant Zones & Perimeter Captains
- Burn Timeline
Step Three - Registering Artwork
Step Four – On Playa
- ARTery Check-in
- Establishing A Perimeter
- Create The Initial Perimeter
- Ignition Of A Burn
- When To Drop The Perimeter
- Contingency Plan
- Clean Up and LNT
- ARTery Check-out
Step Five – Post Playa
- Submit Burn Report
STEP ONE – PRE-PLAYA PLANNING
Read Safety Protocol Documents
Please read the following web pages to become familiar with Burning Man’s policies on creating art and fire art for the event:
STEP TWO – PRE-PLAYA PLANNING
Designate a Fire Safety Perimeter Manager
Designate one person from your team to be the Fire Safety Perimeter Manager for your project. This person (who can be the artist his/herself, if necessary) will be the point of contact for the FAST and the BRC Rangers.
The Fire Safety Perimeter Manager is similar to a Stage Manager, and should possess the following qualities:
- Cool Head – ability to stay calm in the middle of chaos.
- Good Organizational Skills – ability to coordinate and manage the perimeter crew.
- Communication and People Skills – ability to communicate clearly at all levels, and communicate face-to-face instructions to perimeter team.
- Understanding The Big Picture – ability to set up in advance and manage the chain of command, the timeline for the perimeter set up, performance, and the rendezvous point for perimeter team, ensuring everybody knows exactly where he or she should be, what to expect, what to do, and who is in charge.
In preparation for a burn, the artist must understand and set up the Burn Zones. The diagram below is an example of a 70’ radius perimeter. Starting from the inside and working outward, the Zones of a Burn are:
- Artwork – The artwork is at the center; this is the area where the burn itself will take place. Just beyond the artwork is the Fire Zone, where the structure may fall. No participants are allowed in this area.
- Perimeter Dividing Line - This is the line that separates the audience from the Safety Perimeter Crew and just inside which the Perimeter crew is stationed.
- Audience Viewing Zone - This is the area where the audience is located.
Determining Perimeter Size
The size of your artwork will determine the size of your perimeter, which in turn will determine the number of Safety Perimeter Crew you will need for your burn.
For a quick refresher in rudimentary geometry:
Radius = the distance from the center of a circle to any point on the circle
Diameter = the distance across a circle through the center
Circumference = the distance around the circle
You can calculate the circumference of a circle with this formula:
Circumference = Pi(3.14) x diameter OR
Circumference = Pi(3.14) x (radius x 2)
To calculate the safety perimeter radius required for burning a simple wooden structure, multiply the height of the artwork by 1.5 to 2. The radius for your perimeter should start at the outer edge of the artwork. For example, if the artwork is 30 feet tall, the perimeter radius would be 45-60 feet from the edge of the artwork, or 75 feet from the center.
The size of your perimeter will have to be increased if there are large amounts of fuels, pyrotechnics, or other effects involved. The National Fire Prevention Association provides the standard we start with.
Note: when determining a pyrotechnic perimeter, your measurements should be taken from a point where the pyrotechnic product is closest to the audience, NOT the center of the show.
Ultimately, the perimeter will be determined by prevailing conditions on the playa, the type of products being used, and the discretion of the FAST member issuing the permit laminate.
Establishing Safety Corridors
Larger burns require that you plan for placement of fire/emergency lanes and entrances for emergency and fire service vehicles. To identify and divide quadrants, and create Safety Corridors, Burning Man uses clock face designations. Normally the Safety Corridors would be placed at the 3:00 & 9:00 positions (see diagram above). FAST will help you with this planning.
Determine the Number of Safety Perimeter Crew
You will need a minimum of one person on your Perimeter Team for every 25 feet of the perimeter’s circumference. To make it simple:
- 50 - foot radius circle will require a 12 person perimeter crew
- 100 - foot radius circle will require 25 person perimeter crew
- 200 - foot radius circle will require 37 person perimeter crew
- 300 - foot radius circle will require 75 person perimeter crew
Perimeter Crew Identification
Make sure your Perimeter crew can be easily identified and distinguished from participants by providing them (or telling them to bring) a perimeter burn shirt, bandana or other unique clothing that will not be covered up by jackets or other outerwear.
Quadrant Zones & Perimeter Captains
For larger burns, divide the burn circle into four quadrants and number or name each one. Designate one person that will take responsibility for each quadrant. Make sure everyone knows the name or number of his or her quadrant. This will make the task of locating emergencies or other issues easier for all involved.
Clear communication at all levels is essential. We've found that radio communication is of great help for all burns and is a requirement for larger burns. In the event of a perimeter collapse, make sure all perimeter staff knows not to put themselves between a surging crowd and a fire. All staff should go to the designated rendezvous point so that everyone can be accounted for.
All artists must create a timeline and/or scenario for their burns. This will allow FAST to coordinate with other artists' burn scenarios during the event. Outline the burn from start to finish, including establishment of the perimeter, the loading of any pyrotechnics, any pre-show performance, ignition of the art, any structural collapses, and ending with the release of the perimeter.
For smaller and less complex burns it's possible that a perimeter can be set with a small staff and without the need for a marked barrier. Larger burns will need to plan for a marked perimeter and secure supplies such as markers or caution tape to define your perimeter before the burn. The FAST will supply delineators for these larger burns. Regardless of burn size; you will also need a number of appropriate and fully-charged fire extinguishers to deal with any premature ignition or unintended fires.
An advance plan will need to be in place to cover any weather conditions that would halt the show after fueling has taken place or pyrotechnics materials have been installed. This will require an all-night standby. Artists must be proactive and prepared for protecting their artwork from being disturbed once it's loaded with fuel or staged with pyrotechnics to avoid any unintended burning or participant injury.
STEP THREE – PRE-PLAYA
Register Your Artwork
Registering your artwork by filling out the art questionnaire will demonstrate that you are serious about creating Fire Art safely and are willing to communicate with the Art Department and FAST. Once you have read the Art Installation Guidelines and Creating Dangerous Art Safely pages you can start your discussion. The earlier you start your discussion, the better the FAST can assist you.
STEP FOUR – ON PLAYA
Once you have arrived in Black Rock City, you will need to check in at the ARTery. This communicates that you are ready for a face-to-face dialogue with FAST and to be escorted to your art location on the playa. Artists who have made prior arrangement for Decomposed Granite (DG) will find a pile at their site. It is the artist’s responsibility to spread it to fit their work.
Establishing a Perimeter
Most perimeters should be set at least two hours before the performance. This is dependent on its size, intensity and the complexity of your pre-burn activities. Pyrotechnic performances should have a perimeter established before the pyrotechnic load-in begins and the perimeter must remain in place until after the site has been declared safe. This initial pyrotechnic perimeter can be a smaller perimeter depending on the size of the structure, quantity and type of pyrotechnic material being used. A member of FAST who is certified for pyrotechnics will discuss this with you prior to your chosen burn day. A sufficient supply of fire extinguishers should be on hand from the beginning of the perimeter set up and must be visible and accessible at all times.
Create the Initial Perimeter
Form a tight ring of staffers arm-to-arm around the immediate performance area. Together as a group, proceed at a slow pace outward towards the eventual perimeter to ensure that foreign objects and non-crew participants are not within the perimeter. Be assertive, but polite. You are the host, they are the guests.
Once the perimeter has been set, staffers must be diligent in keeping audience members out. Remember, the perimeter is there for their safety. Sitting is not recommended for the perimeter crew, as it is too difficult to spring into action from this position. Squatting, or crouching with one knee down is better.
Additional team members may be needed to stand back from the front line of the perimeter crew to catch anyone who makes it through them (this does happen). Before the performance, this second line can stand in for perimeter crewmembers when they need a bathroom break. Also, have some food and water available for your crew, and encourage them to bring warmer clothing for a cooler evening.
Working with your audience is very effective and good humor is essential. Make friends with the audience; it is crucial that they assist you. They want to see a good burn and they are willing to stand where told. But if you do not set up a perimeter before the audience arrives, it's really difficult to get them to move back. Also, do not be too concerned if the crowd yells things like "burn it!" The crowd can sound surly, but they are at your burn to see the show and have a good time, just like you and your crew. For large performances, ask the first three or more rows of watchers to sit down. This way everyone can see and the likelihood of a sudden large perimeter break is greatly diminished. The people who arrive earliest for a performance often have cameras and are more than happy to sit. Since they would prefer others don't trample their set up, they are typically more than willing to help you. Remember that in holding a perimeter, the situation can change quickly. The crew needs to stay focused and flexible throughout the event.
Ignition of the Burn
A member of FAST will arrive a few hours prior to the scheduled time of your burn to identify themselves to the artists. Refrain from adding fuel to the artwork before the FAST member arrives. The FAST member will make a final check of your piece, and if all is in order, they will issue the burn laminates for your piece and inform the Black Rock Rangers and the Emergency Services Department that your piece is on schedule to burn. You may then proceed to fuel your piece and complete your preparations to burn.
Just before the burn, a FAST member will check the weather. Barring any high wind conditions or other negative weather factors you will receive an OK to burn from the FAST member. At this point laminate(s) will be given to the Fire Safety Perimeter Manager and, depending upon the size of the perimeter, will determine the number of laminates they will receive.
When to Drop the Perimeter
For simple burns not involving pyrotechnics or large amounts of liquid fuels, the decision on when to drop the perimeter is based on when the highest pieces of the artwork have fallen. The idea is that a hazardous situation exists until any components of the artwork that may conceivably fall outside of the Fire Zone area have actually fallen.
For larger burns the FAST will help you to make this decision. For projects involving pyrotechnics, and not scheduled to burn completely, the pyrotechnics crew must make a sweep of the area for unfired pyrotechnics materials before the perimeter can be dropped. FAST will NOT allow a pyrotechnics crewmember to enter a burning structure to check that the pyrotechnics have gone off.
Once the perimeter has been dropped, it is important to make sure that any unburned wood or other materials that have fallen outside of the burn shield are thrown back into the burn and that these items do not become a tripping hazard for participants approaching the fire. Do not allow participants to throw items that are not to be burned, like plastics or hazardous items, into the fire.
If your burn plan goes like clockwork, great! But on the Black Rock Desert, you must be flexible and patient to have a successful burn.
- Having a back up plan (or two) is essential. One major factor to take into account is weather; the start of the burn performance may need to be placed on hold or cancelled and rescheduled for a different night.
- Know where the fire extinguishers are. All perimeter crew must be trained in the use of and aware of the location of the extinguisher closest to them.
- Have the Safety Perimeter Crew ready to respond at a moment's notice. They should have eyes on the crowd. In the event of a perimeter collapse, make sure all perimeter staff knows not to put themselves between a surging crowd and a fire.
- Rendezvous Plan - After the perimeter has dropped, all staff should go to the designated rendezvous point so that everyone can be accounted for. If possible, try to make sure the area outside the crowd is clear. In the event of a collapse, the surging crowd may respond by turning around and running back away from the fire.
The artist should be ready to stand by the art if the weather turns bad. A FAST Team member will be assigned to each burn and will be able to confirm your ignition timing. The FAST Team member will be the final word on wind and perimeter before the project will be burned.
Clean up and LNT
Post-burn, artists are also expected to completely clean the DG of debris. Completely cleaning the sight of your burn is essential for the continuation of our event and it is your responsibility as the artist. Here is more information about burn clean up tools and LNT.
Once the burn site has been cleaned the artist should return to the ARTery to have an authorized ARTery team member return with them to the site of the burn. Only after this last review of your burn site will you be considered checked out and able to leave the site.
In order to always improve we need to hear from you about your experiences with your burn. Artists will be required to write a short report post event describing what worked and what did not. This report is required before any DG deposits will be returned.
If you have further questions, please email fire-art (at) burningman (dot) com.