Department of Public Works

Black Rock City’s Department of Public Works (DPW) is the workforce dedicated to building, supporting and maintaining the physical infrastructure of Black Rock City, the place Burning Man calls home in the Black Rock Desert. The DPW works side by side with all of the departments within the Burning Man Project. We also work with Burning Man participants, cooperating agencies, and our worldwide community to ensure that Black Rock City becomes a reality and then vanishes without a trace. You can check out a list of our mandates here.

It’s long hard hot work, and we have a damn good time doing it. Each year we bring together more than 750 people – some new folks, some returning crew – to build our team. We look for skilled, incredible tradespeople of all kinds or anyone who desires to become skilled and incredible in the service of Black Rock City, our temporary home in the desert. We take Radical Inclusion, Diversity and Equity very seriously.

The Department of Public Works is an operation we’ve been developing since 1998 – a constant learning process for both the individual members of the team and our organization as a whole. It’s important to understand that we work in a fast-paced, somewhat chaotic, large scale event production environment. To work well with us, and to create a place for yourself within this aspect of the Burning Man Project, you’ll need to have the skills necessary to function and thrive in this type of workplace. These skills include being adaptable to change, 

being able to operate under intense conditions, an ability to ask for help when you need it, and understanding when and how to be there for your crewmates. It means being generally proactive, learning to get things done with the tools at hand, and looking for ways to move things forward rather than getting stuck when problems arise. Solutions ensure that the show goes on. 

Another important aspect of participating with the DPW is the fact that we are working hard in an extreme physical environment that is constantly sapping our precious bodily fluids and energy. The Black Rock Desert is one of the harshest environments in the world, and it takes a conscious effort from the individual – as well as the group – to ensure our health and safety. The work is heavy, difficult, and physically uncomfortable… and we like it that way. The DPW works because we all work hard and honor our commitments, and if you don’t we will ask you to leave.

The DPW Event Season runs from mid-July to early October with four distinct phases: set-up, the event, tear down, and playa restoration.

Set-up takes place in Gerlach, Nevada, in early August and is our most chaotic phase. We have a lot of work to do, and quickly, putting it all together until the gates burst open and the city comes alive. There is never enough time to get it all done the way we’d love, but ‘perfect’ is the enemy of ‘finished’ and the show must go on. 

Event Week is when a lot of DPW crews are on call. Depending on the crew you’re on, your time off to enjoy the Burning Man event week will vary dramatically. If you WANT to work during the event, there are also many opportunities to volunteer with event-busy DPW crews and also other departments and projects that will become apparent when the time arrives.

Tear Down starts Tuesday morning after the event. Tear Down lasts about two weeks and involves taking apart everything we put together during set-up. The buildings come apart, the fences come down, and everything gets packed up and shipped away. It all culminates on De-Fence Day, when all of the crews converge to bring down the trash fence as a whole magnificent force.

Playa Restoration is the last phase of our DPW Event Season, our honorable endgame where we funnel all our efforts into Leave No Trace. All DPW crew-members have the opportunity to sign up for Playa Restoration. You can also put your name in the hat any time by emailing If you are selected, you will join an all-star team of professional environment-restoration specialists, dedicated to leaving no trace of our event in the Black Rock Desert. Playa Restoration usually lasts for just over two weeks and brings us into the first week of October. 

We provide for the basic needs of the crew during the work season: three meals a day, water and electrolytes, access to laundry, kitchen facilities, and places to hang out and enjoy the company of your crewmates after hours. Working with us for two weeks will earn you a DPW T-shirt, identifying you as one of us, for better or worse.

Want to be involved? Let’s keep in touch:  

August through February: Sign Up For DPW Announce Mailing List! We’ll send out updates as soon as jobs are posted and the annual DPW Application is launched, usually sometime in March.

March through July: Go Here To Apply! We will add you to the list of candidates for the current year’s DPW crews, and keep you in the loop as things go forward. We do our best to select and notify crew through the recruiting months of spring and hopefully wrap up our onboarding processes by late-June each year. Please keep in mind that every year we get more applications than we have open spots on crew. 

You can also reach us at any time.

You can read much, much more about our operation and our culture in the DPW Handbook or find us on playa during the event if you want to stick around awhile longer and help make the city disappear. 

So, you made it this far …what are you waiting for?

Join us in the DPW for a summer you’ll never forget.