In 2008, 38 fire groups originally communicated their intention to participate, and 29 of those lasted through the summer to participate in the Fire Conclave. The membership totaled 1,294, making this the largest group of fire performers and support team in the world. In all, there were 810 fire performers, 335 fire safeties, 29 radio communicators and 120 musicians.
We maintain high standards for being a member of the Fire Conclave, and the challenge is great: to create a creative, choreographed and compelling fire show that furthers the art of fire dance. The tools that the performers use has pretty much stayed the same, while the intention and manner in which those tools are being used that is continually evolving.
The day of the Man burn (Saturday, August 30) started off great; the weather was calm, and it held a promise of clear skies. But as the day progressed, a constant wind kicked up an unrelenting white-out dust storm that covered Black Rock City. And as a result, the expectation that the Fire Conclave would give their gift to the participants of Black Rock City before the Man was released in pyrotechnic delight was unfortunately dashed.
One of the responsibilities of Burning Man’s Board of Directors, above all else, is safety; this is paramount when creating a city of 49,000 plus participants. And when it’s all said and done, the weather in the Black Rock Basin is the highest authority of all and must be heeded. This means that at a moment’s notice the weather can change for the worse AND for the better.
The weather forecast on Friday stated that Saturday’s weather was predicting winds of up to 40 mph for the next 24 hours. That meant, for the first time in the history of Burning Man, that the potential of canceling the Procession of the Ceremonial Flame, the Fire Conclave performance AND burning of the Man was a very real issue. WHEN and IF a window of acceptable weather opened up, the Pyrotechnic team, Rangers and support staff needed to work fast. There was no way to judge how long the window of acceptable weather would stay open.
Any time artwork is to be set ablaze, there are many safety precautions that must be taken into account, including the safety perimeter, the size of the artwork and the weather.
- Perimeter: it’s critical to have enough safety personnel to hold the line between the artwork and the audience.
- Size of Artwork: the larger the piece, the higher the safety risk.
- Weather: winds over 20 mph are considered unacceptable conditions, because the resulting white-outs overly inhibit visibility during the burn and throw burning embers far distances.
It was not safe to burn anything in Saturday’s weather conditions, and the bottom line was that the Man would not burn until it was safe. The load-in of fuel and pyrotechnics in the Man was only partially complete when weather conditions became bad, and all loading activity was halted. In normal conditions this is serious, but in a white-out dust storm, it’s much more so. The Pyrotechnic team weren’t able to finish what they had started. So we waited through out the day, hoping for a window of good weather to open up.
If the weather were to clear, we recognized that it might only last for a very short time. So we had to decide whether to allow the 2 hour-long pre-burn festivities to proceed, or cancel the pre-show activity and quickly burn the Man, taking care of the most dangerous aspect. It really came down to the Fire Conclave’s performance versus ensuring participants’ safety, and in the end, we chose safety of our participants. When a window of acceptable weather appeared around sunset, we finished loading the Man, and proceeded with the burn without the Conclave’s grand performance.
Our deep appreciation goes out to everybody who spent so much time, energy and money to craft their performances and then journey to Black Rock City. Even though they were unable to perform before the Man was released, the following groups participated by working hard on their choreography and planning, and getting their crews to the event.
FIRE CONCLAVE MEMBERSHIP OF 2008
- Radiant Heat – Vancouver, B.C.
- Ambiance Drummers – San Francisco Bay Area plus
- Burning Otter – San Francisco Bay Area plus
- Dreamtime Circus – San Francisco Bay Area
- Fire Arts Collective – San Francisco Bay Area
- Flux – San Francisco Bay Area
- Garnish – Los Angeles area
- Los Angeles Fire Conclave – Los Angeles Area
- One Peoples Voice – Gamelon X – Oakland
- Phoenix Projekt – Los Angeles Area
- Pois In The Hood – Los Angeles Area
- PyroSpin – Santa Barbara Area
- Santa Cruz Fire Conclave – Santa Cruz Area
- Solar Flare – Davis
- Temple of Poi – San Francisco
- Tribal Fire Collective – Sonoma
- Burning Desert Fire Collective – Grand Junction
- Colorado Fire Tribe
- Ka Manalei O Ke Ahi – Islands of Hawaii, Maui, O’ahu
- Boston Fire Family – Boston
- Minneapolis Fire Collective
- Controlled Burn – Reno
- Sparkworks NYC – New York City
- Cinder Circus – Eugene
- Oregon Fire Conclave – Portland Area
- Aish Tamid (Eternal Flame) – Philadelphia
- Utah Fire Conclave – Salt Lake City
- Flight of Fire – Annandale
Washington DC / Maryland
- Playa Del Fuego
- North West Fire Conclave – Seattle and beyond
- Pyronauts – 21 US States and 15 countries