Black Rock City’s Department of Public Works (DPW) is the workforce dedicated to building 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 full list of our mandate here.
It’s long hard work, and we have a damn good time doing it. Each year we bring together more than 700 people — some new folks, some returning crew — to build our team. We look for electricians, plumbers, heavy equipment operators, licensed truck drivers and bus drivers, carpenters, welders, auto mechanics, office assistants, dispatch operators, and Depot staff. We also look for unskilled, hard-working individuals who are eager to learn and who have a strong desire to help create the temporary city in the desert we all call home.
The DPW work season is a fast-paced, 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 event, you’ll need to have the skills necessary to function and thrive in this type of workplace. These skills include dynamic problem-solving, self-sufficiency, flexibility, emotional intelligence, and a generally proactive approach that keeps things moving forward. Solutions ensure that the show goes on.
You’ve also got to be able to deal with the setting. The Black Rock Desert is one of the harshest environments in the continental U.S., and it takes a conscious effort by the individual as well as the group to ensure everyone’s health and safety. Slackers, whiners, and exceptionally needy people need not apply. It’s tough enough out there, and if you cannot toe the line, we will have to ask you to leave.
The DPW Work Season runs from early August to early October, and has four distinct phases: set-up, the event, tear down, and playa restoration.
Set-up is where we ask you to show up in Gerlach, Nevada, in early August and work with us on putting the city together until the event starts. Working two weeks of set-up will earn you a ticket to that year’s Burning Man event.
The event is when most DPW crews are on call. However, if everything has gone according to plan, you will have the week off to enjoy the Burning Man event. If you WANT to work during the event, there are some DPW crews that keep working, and many other opportunities to volunteer with other departments and projects.
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.
Playa restoration is the last phase of our work season. Throughout the DPW work season, you will have many opportunities to sign up for playa restoration. You can also sign up any time by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
You can sign up to do set-up, or tear down, or both. Playa restoration candidates will be selected during tear down.
We will provide for your basic needs while you work for us: three meals a day, water and electrolyte drinks, access to laundry, kitchen facilities, and our own Rec. Center / Social Club, complete with internet access, a pool table, and a phone so you can touch base with the outside world now and then. Working with us for two weeks will earn you a DPW T-shirt, identifying you as one of us, for better or worse.
If all this sounds good to you, and you’d like to be involved, please go here to apply. We will add you to the list of potentials for the DPW crew, and keep you in the loop as things go forward. We do our best to select and notify crew by late May / early June each year. Please keep in mind that we don’t have room for everyone and that out of the hundreds of applicants, only 30-40 new people will be asked to join our team each year.
You can read much, much more about our operation in our current DPW Handbook.