Creating Dangerous Art Safely

Basura Sagrada Temple by Shrine, Tucker and the Basura Sagrada Collaboratory, 2008 (Photo by Thomas Fang)

Basura Sagrada Temple by Shrine, Tucker and the Basura Sagrada Collaboratory, 2008 (Photo by Thomas Fang)

Fire is the heart of the Burning Man event, and we encourage and support all types of safe fire art and pyrotechnic displays. The following information and guidelines are designed to promote the safe use of open fire, flame effects and pyrotechnics in your artwork, performance, theme camp or Mutant Vehicle. Please read this page in its entirety, as well as the other pages in this section that apply to your work. Thank you for burning safely!

Fire Art Safety Team (FAST)

Fire Art Safety Team (FAST) is a team of artists, fire safety personnel and industry professionals whose mission is to provide experienced support for fire artists and to ensure the safe use of fire at the Burning Man event. FAST assists artists in the safe execution of open fire, flame effects, and/or pyrotechnics in installations, theme camps and Mutant Vehicles. FAST inspects artworks incorporating fire and issues the appropriate Burn License(s) once the artwork has been approved.

There are two kinds of FAST personnel: 1) FAST Artist Liaisons work with artists and fire safety liaisons during the pre-event evaluation process, and 2) FAST Leads oversee any burns and/or pyrotechnic shows at the event. Take advantage of their knowledge and experience in planning your artwork.

Fire Art and Event Stipulations

Burning Man’s agreements with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management are in the form of event stipulations, which state that for public safety reasons, artworks using open fire, flame effects and/or pyrotechnics require safety inspection and approval in the form of a Burn License (laminate).

FAST and outside authorities, including law enforcement, retain jurisdiction over all flame classifications. They have the right to request to see the Burn License and if not presented can override, stop, alter or cancel any artwork or performance with just cause. They have access to all areas of the artwork or performance at all times.

Flame Classifications

Burning Man has created a set of definitions that will help participants understand and plan for the use of fire and pyrotechnics in art installations, camps and Mutant Vehicles. These definitions will be referenced throughout this section.

  • Open Fire is defined as simple burning of solid or unpressurized liquid fuels, without any enhancement by mechanical devices, extra oxidizers or pyrotechnic materials. Examples of open fire include burning sculptural installations, as well as burn barrels, braziers, oil lamps, torches, candles and other simple uses of fire. Read our Open Fire Guidelines.
  • Flame Effect is defined as “The combustion of solids, liquids, or gases to produce thermal, physical, visual, or audible phenomena before an audience.” This includes all flames that are automated, switched, pressurized or having any other action than simply being lit on fire; as well as projects using propane or other liquid or gaseous fuels. (Note: liquid fuel flame effects are not allowed in theme camps or on Mutant Vehicles.) Read our Flame Effects Guidelines.
  • Pyrotechnics refers to the art, craft and science of fireworks, which includes any explosives or projectiles. All pyrotechnic special effects material used in any art installation or performance must consist of consumer fireworks [1.4G Class C, UN0336] or less. Read our Pyrotechnics Guidelines.

Fire in Theme Camps

The use of flame effects and burn barrels is allowed within theme camps, but the urban density of the camping area of Black Rock City poses some additional challenges and issues.

A small burn barrel or flame effect at the entrance to your camp can be just the thing to help guide you and your campmates back late at night, but the reality of a tent fire or a more serious situation arising from its misuse is a threat to participant safety and the future of our event.

Each camp should designate someone who is responsible, not under the effects of drugs or alcohol, and present at all times to monitor fires and/or flame effects and be prepared to extinguish the fire if wind conditions kick up. For details, read our Guidelines for Use of Fire in Theme Camps.

Flame Effects on Mutant Vehicles

All Mutant Vehicles must be registered and approved by Burning Man’s Department of Mutant Vehicles. Flame effects are allowed on Mutant Vehicles, although liquid-fueled effects and burn barrels or other open fire are prohibited.

While all standards for LP-Gas (or “propane”) flame effects also apply to Mutant Vehicles, there are additional considerations specific to Mutant Vehicles that must also be addressed. For details, read our guidelines for Flame Effects on Mutant Vehicles.