Fire Safety Tips for Flow Artists
So, you are ready to take your flow to new, hotter heights; but there is just one small problem - you don't know where to start.
No worries, I can help! I was an eager new hooper ready to explore the exciting world of fire; but like you, I didn't know where to start. There was so much information out there and so many conflicting opinions. Simply put, I was overwhelmed and a bit discouraged.
After weeks of research, I eventually found my way. I didn't yet know anyone in my local hoop community, so when I finally spun a fire hoop for the first time, I feeling prepared, but a little bit scared.
(@Amy_Performs | Photo credit: Fletcher Wiggin)
It was a solo act on a large, open cement slab. My husband was my safety and my kids watched nervously from about 50 feet away.
It was incredible. Instantly, I was hooked!
That was 2013. These days, I am an insured fire performer and spin multiple fire props including single, double and triple fire hoops, fire fans, isolation fire hoops, dragon staff and more!
Although I was just a fire baby, I took EVERY. SINGLE. PRECAUTION. I knew that my tiny audience was heavily invested in my safety. I couldn't risk traumatizing them with any mishaps. And I feel the same about fire safety to this day. Despite my years of experience, I never get 'too comfortable' and I never skimp on safety. I have since been the proud 'fire mama' for many first time burners, and they'll all tell you the same thing.
I wish I could be there for YOUR first burn, but since I can't, I want to share with you my complete list of FAQ's for first time burners.
Okay, let's get to the burning questions:
What type of Fuel should I buy?
- There are a few options, but my preference is 'White Gas / Camp Fuel', especially for newer fire spinners. You can find it in the camping section at sporting goods stores or Wal-Mart. The reason I prefer this fuel over other options is that it burns clean. That means there is less black smoke coming from your props and it burns bright and quick. I know some performers opt to mix this with other fuels to get longer burn times, but in my experience, this gives me about a song worth which is plenty. More importantly, I'm not a fan of breathing in the thick black smoke. Here and Here are two brands I use regularly. It's fairly inexpensive and one container should last you quite a few burns! Keep in mind that this is very flammable, so be sure it is always completely sealed when not in use and keep it stored in a cool, dry place away from any open flames.
*Whatever you do, do not be tempted to use gasoline - this is very dangerous and not recommended*
What safety equipment should I have?
- My recommendations would be to have as many of these as possible and keep them near your burning area at all times.
Kevlar Sleeves (Highly recommend for new burners) Something like this.
Spray bottle filled with water
Bucket of water*
What is a 'fire safety*'?
- A fire safety is a person who monitors your performance at all times. They should be familiar with how to use all available safety equipment (fire extinguisher, fire blanket, etc.) Something to note, this person should not be in charge of recording, photography or music. Their only job should be monitoring the burn - ready to jump into action should anything go wrong. I suggest burning with small groups of friends and rotating who is burning and who is being the safety, bonus points if you have more friends to photograph, video or to be the DJ. *No matter what, never burn alone*
What should I wear?
- Always wear natural fibers. 100% cotton is best, denim works, too. Double check your clothes' tags before assuming they are natural fibers. Many 'cotton like' and 'denim like' clothes are actually blended with synthetic fibers. These types of materials (polyester, spandex, rayon, etc. - anything stretchy or synthetic) will MELT if they catch on fire. This means you will not be able to get it off once it's on fire, it can literally melt into your skin. Don't assume that natural fibers can't catch on fire. They absolutely can, just not as easily and they wont melt to your skin. Most natural fibers can handle a brief encounter with the flame without igniting.
If you are looking for cute fire safe outfits, check etsy for 'Fire Safe Clothing'. Harmonic Threads is my absolute fav.
Check out these cute circus outfit from their shop.
(Pictured Left to right: @MissHoopdidoo @Flowpunzel @Amy_Performs)
I also suggest giving your body a quick mist with water using a spray bottle moments before you light up. Damp clothes are much less likely to ignite.
Should I protect my hair?
- Yes! If you are uncomfortable keeping your hair exposed, you can wear a head covering like a scarf or bandana (natural fibers only!). I don't usually opt for any head covering, but if you have medium to long hair, I highly recommend keeping your hair pulled back into a tight braid or bun.
Avoid flammable hair products like mouse or hairspray!
As a final safety touch, I always mist my hair with water using a spray bottle moments before I burn. Having slightly damp hair will reduce chances of singeing the little dry flyway hairs. If you skip this step, you may end up smelling burnt hair for the next few days.
What is a 'fueling station'?
- A fueling station is the space you use to 'fuel up' your props in between burns. It is imperative that your fueling station is FAR away from your burn site (the space you will actually spin fire). The farther the better, but shoot for a minimum of 30 feet. Some might say this is overkill, but have you ever missed a catch or tried a new trick and sent your hoop flying? I have (Never with fire, knock on wood!). But just believe me on this one, you don't want a fire hoop accidently rolling anywhere near your fueling station.
To maximize the safety of your fueling station, be sure your fuel container is completely sealed in between burns.
*The bucket of water listed in the safety equipment is helpful to keep near your fueling station for rinsing your hands after fueling. This ensures you do not have any residual fuel on your skin before lighting up! Water should never be poured on fuel fires*
How do I safely fuel my props?
- First, you'll need a 'dip' container. My preference is using a glass mason jar that is about 3"-4" tall. If it's too tall, it's hard to dip your wicks if you are low on fuel. You can use any glass or metal container that has an airtight seal and can be easily refilled.
Carefully pour your fuel into the dip container. Ensure your original container is completely sealed and put it away, if possible.
With the dip container on flat ground, dip each wick for 5 - 10 seconds. You will notice air bubbles coming from your wick. Once the air bubbles stop, you're good to go. Move to the next wick. (Pro Tip: Count your wicks as you dip. There is nothing more frustrating than starting a burn and realizing you missed a wick - There is no re-fueling once you light up!)
Once all wicks are dipped, completely seal your dip container.
Give your prop a good shake or spin to get off any excess fuel drippings. (These can spin off as little flames if you skip this step!)
Move away from your fuel station to your burn station before lighting up.
I suggest rinsing your hands to ensure you don't have any residual fuel on your skin and misting your hair and clothes with water just moments before lighting up! (Using the bucket and spray bottle from our safety material list)
How to I ensure I have a safe space to burn?
- Always inspect the area before lighting up.
Choose an outdoor area free of any flammable debris. Dead leaves and dead grass, dead or dried out wooded areas are not recommended. If you opt for spinning fire on grass, use a water hose to wet it before lighting up.
Opt for concrete/pavement whenever possible. This is your safest option, aside from spinning on concrete/pavement near a pool or water source.
For fire performances, I usually require a minimum of 10x10' space. For a new fire spinner, you may want to double that. Ensure that children and pets are clear of the area and your fueling station is FAR away. (I know I already said that but it's SO important).
How do I safely light my props?
- I recommend holding your fueled prop and having your fire safety light it for you using a lighter. If you are using a hoop, hold the hoop around your body and slowly spin in a circle as your safety lights one wick at a time.
They should quickly move to a safe distance as soon as your all lit up.
What if I drop my hoop/prop while it's on fire?
- If you are spinning on cement or concrete, no problem. You can leave it to burn out on the ground. Of course, if you have a fire blanket nearby (recommended), use that to carefully extinguish the fire. If you aren't on concrete, you should put the fire out immediately a fire blanket or an extinguisher.
What else should I know before my first burn?
- Start small.
You can build your confidence over time by starting with props that give you a bit more control. Palm torches or fire fans are a great option. You can hold the flame at a safe distance from you, minimizing any risk of burns while you learn. If you starting with a hoop/staff or other prop, consider only partially lighting it, start with one or two wicks if needed. (Pictured @Amy_Performs)
- Get comfortable with your prop PRIOR to lighting it up.
Try lots of tricks so that you are familiar with what works (or doesn't) before you burn. Wicks add additional weight and change the overall size of your prop. Tricks that you usually do might have to be modified or omitted from your flow. You don't want to figure this out mid-burn. (*Pro tip: If you have a flow toy that has black wicks from being burned, use that for practice. It will leave little black marks on you every time it touches you. This will help you visualize where you may need to modify your flow or indicate that you need more practice before lighting up.)
- Don't burn in public spaces without a permit unless open fires are legal - even then, proceed with caution. Places like beaches and camp sites that allow camp fires may allow you to light up there, but not always. Do you homework first. In most public spaces, spinning fire is illegal. Stick to privately owned spaces like driveways, large patios, backyard pools, etc. to avoid trouble with local authorities and having to pay large fines.
- First time burners should do so with someone who is experienced and takes fire safety seriously, if at all possible. (I didn't have this option, but I wish I would have). Beware of the 'experienced' fire spinners who have gotten too comfortable and ignore safety protocol, these are not your teachers. If you don't know anyone in your area, consider starting a meet up.
Again, this one is not a must, just a recommendation. You can absolutely have a first burn that is fun and safe without an experienced burner nearby. Just be sure you are following all of the guidance you read here and have a fire safety!
- Never use water to put out a fuel fire. Use the recommended fire blanket or fire extinguisher. Water on a fuel fire can cause it to spread. Make sure everyone at your burn site knows this before lighting up.
What if I want to perform with fire?
If you choose to perform with fire, please only do so after you have had plenty of experience. Novice fire spinners should never accept a fire gig with a live audience.
Always Inspect the area for safety and be clear about your safety needs with your client. (Separate area for fueling, something to keep guests from entering burning and fueling station, etc.).
Check for permit requirements if your event is held in a public space. (Check with your city hall or local fire marshal for specific requirements in your area).
Quote your gig keeping in mind you will need to pay for a fire safety to attend the event. Fire gigs should be priced MUCH higher (double in some cases) as a regular gig. In addition to the fire safety cost, you'll need to consider fuel costs, additional insurance cost and the inherent risk of bodily harm allows performers to charge more. Don't undercut your industry. Check with local performers for standard rates in your area.
Obtain performers insurance before any fire gig. Most clients will require this. It's a good idea to protect yourself, even if your client doesn't ask about it. This company is widely used by fire performers.
Well, there you have it. These are the things I do every time I burn (and before any gigs). Thankfully, I've never had any serious burn injuries or other unfortunate mishaps. (knock on wood). I hope this information will help you achieve the same result!
Did I miss anything? I would love to get your feedback. Let me know if you found this info useful!
(Pictured left to right @MadisoneWiggin @Amy_Performs, co-owners of Mad About Hoops. Photo Credit: Daniel Angulo Photo)
Check out Amy's Fire Demo below.
(Performer @Amy_Performs, video shot and edited by Daniel Angulo Photo)
Please be aware that spinning fire is inherently dangerous and although you can mitigate the risk by following safety protocols and procedures, accidents can happen. If you choose to spin fire, you are doing so at your own risk. Mad About Hoops and it's owners and affiliates can not be held responsible for any damage or injury that may occur.
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