Fire Guidelines in Camps

The winds can pick up at any time on the Black Rock Desert. Untended or dangerously-constructed fires in camps can quickly throw sparks and embers long distances across the playa, and into other flammable structures. It’s imperative that each participant using fire do their part to keep Black Rock City and participants safe.

If you’re planning on having fire in your camp, whether it’s open fire in a burn barrel or flame effects, you must comply with the following rules. These guidelines are for your safety, the safety of your campmates, and all of Black Rock City.

Fireworks Prohibited within the City Grid

We all love a good fireworks show, but the use of pyrotechnics within any of Black Rock City’s camping areas is a violation of both common sense and Burning Man’s event stipulations with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Pyrotechnics may only be used as part of pre-registered and approved art projects located on the open playa. Any other use of pyrotechnics is forbidden, and may result in steep fines and/or arrest by the BLM and/or Pershing County Sheriffs, and possible ejection from the event.

Also, as the hillsides surrounding Burning Man are in high fire risk status during the time of the event. The use of sky lanterns is forbidden at any time during the event, and may result in fines from the BLM and/or Pershing County Sheriffs.

Open Fire within Camps

  • The burning of any art installation, wooden structure, or other objects or materials in direct contact with the playa, or without appropriate fireproof containment, is not allowed in any camping area.
  • Open fire within residential camping areas is limited to simple burning of solid or unpressurized liquid fuels away from the playa surface and within appropriate fireproof containment (e.g., burn barrels or other raised containers, lanterns, candles, etc.).
  • Burn barrels or other containers should be secured against tipping over, and constructed in a way that the bottom surface is at least 6 inches from the playa to prevent baking or scarring of the playa surface.
  • No burn barrels or other open fire shall be left unattended. At least one camp member should be designated fire tender and be within visual distance at all times. If found unattended while lit, open flames or burn barrels may be extinguished and/or confiscated if there is sufficient threat of hazard.
  • If winds pick up, all open fire must be put out immediately and burn barrels must be extinguished if they begin to throw sparks.
  • Open fire displays greater than 10 feet tall must be secured in case of high wind and their safety perimeters increased appropriately.
  • Open fire or burn barrels must be extinguished at the request of any Ranger, FAST and/or Emergency Services Department (ESD) personnel.
  • A 20-ft. zone around the fire must be free of any combustible materials such as (but not limited to) cloth, paper, tents, plastic, etc.
  • A supply of at least five gallons of water and fire extinguishers must be kept on hand to extinguish wood fires in case of high winds or other hazards. Wind can blow embers and sparks a long distance across the playa!

Flame Effects and LP-Gas Appliances within Camps

Flame effects are allowed within BRC camping areas and subject to all General Flame Effects Guidelines, including additional considerations specific to the dense urban landscape:

  • The use of liquid-fueled flame effects is prohibited in camping areas.
  • If winds pick up, all flame effects must be put out immediately.
  • Flame effects must be extinguished at the request of any Ranger, FAST, and/or ESD personnel.

Note that store-bought, UL-approved patio heaters, fire pits, lamps and lanterns, cooking units and other unmodified UL-approved appliances that burn LP-Gas are not considered “flame effects” for purposes of this section. However, due caution in using such appliances is still required, including but not limited to locating them sensibly, securing them from wind, checking them for leaks, and so on. Burning Man’s ESD has jurisdiction over all such appliances. Any request from ESD personnel to secure, relocate, or turn off any such appliance must be accommodated.

Fire Performance within Camps

Please check out the Fire Performance page for more information and guidelines about fire performance safety in camps.

Guidelines for Flame Effects on Mutant Vehicles

Some of the most spectacular Mutant Vehicles seen on the playa incorporate flame effects into their design, blowing fire into the night sky. As amazing as this is, flame effects on Mutant Vehicles present unique challenges, due to the fact that the vehicles move about the playa and carry passengers. While the use of LP-Gas flame effects is permitted, using liquid fueled effects or open fire that cannot be instantly extinguished is NOT allowed on Mutant Vehicles.

Required Inspections

Note that your vehicle must be registered, approved and licensed by the Department of Mutant Vehicles before a member of the Fire Art Safety Team (FAST) will review any flame effects. Failure to pass the DMV inspection will result in your not being licensed to drive your Mutant Vehicle on the playa.

FAST will inspect your vehicle’s flame effects at the Department of Mutant Vehicles on playa to ensure you’ve followed all the requirements for safely constructing and operating the flame effects. Failure to pass this inspection will result in your not being allowed to operate the flame effect on your vehicle.

Construction of Mutant Vehicle Flame Effects

When incorporating flame effects, Mutant Vehicle artists must not only follow the General Flame Effects Guidelines, but also take into consideration the following factors in the design and construction of flame effects for their vehicles:

  • The use of wood fires or liquid-fueled flame effects on Mutant Vehicles is prohibited.
  • Transporting open acetylene cylinders, and use of acetylene in flame effects on mobile art is prohibited.
  • Route your hoses inboard and away from hot exhaust pipes or manifolds. You will be moving and you could run into an unlit object on the playa or another Mutant Vehicle. All fuel lines should be protected from potential damage due to a collision.
  • It is possible that you may have participants on your vehicle. The routing of fuel and electrical lines should also be such that they cannot be damaged by someone grabbing them (say, while traveling over rough terrain) or tripping over them.
  • Fuel and electrical lines should be run in such a way as to prevent rubbing, chafing, impingement or other damage that may result from normal use of vehicle.
  • Fuel tanks must be mounted and secured within the vehicle so they are protected from damage caused by a collision with another vehicle or solid object, and where participants cannot step or stand on them.
  • Fuel tanks should be well ventilated; LP-Gas is heavier than air and in case of a leak will collect in low unventilated areas, resulting in risk of explosion.
  • The 1/4-turn main LP-Gas shut-off valve must be placed within easy reach of both the driver and the flame effects operator.
  • Flame should be well above the heads of participants: at least 10 feet (3m) above where any participant could stand, whether on the ground, or on your vehicle.
  • Flame discharges should be vertical whenever possible; no flame shall be angled closer than 45° to the horizontal.

Maximum LP-Gas Quantity for Mutant Vehicles

In order to ensure the safety of participants and Emergency Services personnel, Burning Man imposes limits on the quantity of LP-Gas that may be carried on Mutant Vehicles. These limits are consistent with regulations imposed by the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles and the Federal Department of Transportation (DOT), as well as National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) guidelines.

  • The total Aggregate Gross Weight (weight of containers plus fuel when all containers are filled to their maximum permitted filling levels) shall not exceed 1000 lb.
  • The maximum number of containers shall not exceed ten (10).
  • The maximum size DOT cylinder shall be 1000 lb. water capacity (WC).
  • The maximum size ASME portable container shall be 200 gallon water capacity (WC).
  • ASME containers shall be designed for portable use, and shall have integral appurtenance protection.
  • Containers shall be installed on the vehicle to allow adequate ventilation and access to their appurtenances for easy closure in an emergency situation.
  • The containers shall be transported on the vehicle upright with the relief valve in communication with the vapor space preventing the venting of liquid LP-Gas.
  • Containers shall be secured to prevent movement during transportation.

The formula to obtain the aggregate gross weight of a cylinder is:

AGW = (WC × 0.42) + TW


  • AGW = Aggregate Gross Weight
  • WC = Water Capacity (marked on cylinder)
  • TW = Tare Weight (the weight of the container when empty; marked on cylinder)

Below is a table of approximate Aggregate Gross Weights for several common LP-Gas cylinder sizes:

Cylinder Size

Aggregate Gross Weight









33.5# (forklift)




43.5# (forklift)






Note that Aggregate Gross Weight is only one consideration in sizing your fuel supply. Regardless of the size(s) of the cylinders you choose, you are limited to a total of ten (10) cylinders maximum.

(If the maximum allowed quantity were to be determined by AGW only, a Mutant Vehicle could hypothetically transport 66 × 5# cylinders and be in compliance with the maximum weight rule. But 66 cylinders on a Mutant Vehicle is a lot of valves to close, a lot of connections that could leak, and a lot of relief valves that could vent. Therefore, Burning Man limits the total number of LP-Gas cylinders on any Mutant Vehicle to ten.)

Below are some examples of LP-Gas cylinder combinations that meet the requirements:

  • Ten 20# cylinders (380 lb.)
  • Ten 30# cylinders (550 lb.)
  • Ten 40# cylinders (720 lb.)
  • Five 100# cylinders (855 lb.)
  • Five 100# cylinders and three 20# cylinders (969 lb.)


Here are email addresses where you may direct questions concerning:

Flame Effects on Mutant Vehicles:
Mutant Vehicles in general:

Pyrotechnics Guidelines

There are good reasons why Burners say “Happy New Year!” when the Man burns. Yes, your year comes to revolve around Burning Man after a couple trips out to the desert. But the more obvious reason is that the thing blows up like New Year’s Eve to the power of the Fourth of July. For that, we can thank world-class pyrotechnics experts, and you don’t live to be one of those unless you practice the craft of exploding things very carefully, using the following guidelines.

Pyrotechnics Definition

Pyrotechnics refers to the art, craft and science of fireworks, which includes any explosives or projectiles. All pyrotechnic special effects material used in any artwork or performance must consist of consumer fireworks [1.4G Class C, UN0336] or less.

Absolutely NO HOMEMADE FIREWORKS, nor DISPLAY (PROFESSIONAL) FIREWORKS [1.3G CLASS B, UN0335] or higher, will be permitted in any artwork or performance.

Safety Guidelines for Pyrotechnics

Allowed Uses of Pyrotechnics

Pyrotechnics may only be used at Burning Man in art installations and performances on the open playa that have been registered with the Art Department and approved by FAST.


Consumer Grade Fireworks Only

Fireworks used in these projects are limited to Consumer Grade [1.4G Class C, UN0336] Fireworks. This includes fountains (also known as gerbs), sparklers, night displays or cakes.

For reasons of safety and event stipulations we do not allow the use of Display Grade [1.3G Class B, UN0335] Fireworks.

No pyrotechnics made by anyone other than a licensed manufacturer of consumer grade pyrotechnics will be permitted on site. This is due to the unknown reliability and consistency of the product, which could prove harmful to participants.

Fireworks Debris

Burning Man encourages artists to consider using fireworks that create the least amount of debris. For instance, firecrackers create a lot of debris, but magic whip (sometimes referred to as firecracker rope) creates very little debris. Multi-shot devices or cakes are filled with small cardboard discs that are projected and spread for great distances. When choosing product for display, choose devices with the least amount of wrapping, inserts, foils and other potential debris. Post-display, the entire fallout area must be promptly swept for debris before it is trampled into the Playa surface or is blown away by the wind.

Storage of Pyrotechnic Material

All pyrotechnic material must be securely stored in accordance with the NFPA 1124 code for storage of fireworks and pyrotechnic materials.

Pyrotechnic materials shall be secured in portable, fire-resistant, theft-resistant, weather-resistant magazines (or “day boxes”) that comply with the following provisions:

  • Magazines shall be used exclusively for the storage of pyrotechnic materials.
  • Each magazine shall be equipped with a padlock.
  • Magazines constructed of metal shall meet the following requirements:

    • They shall be constructed of 12 gauge sheet metal.
    • They shall be lined with a non-sparking material.
    • The edges of metal covers shall overlap the sides by at least 1 in. (25 mm).
  • Magazines constructed of wood shall meet the following requirements:

    • They shall have sides, bottoms and covers or doors of 4 in. (102 mm) hardwood that are braced at the corners.
    • They shall be covered with sheet metal of not less than 26 gauge.
    • Nails exposed to the interior of the magazine shall be countersunk.
  • No smoking, open flame, spark-producing equipment or storage of combustible materials within 50 feet (15m) of any magazine.
  • Proper signage of “NO SMOKING – FLAMMABLE” shall be visible from all four directions.
  • At least one handheld portable extinguisher with a 40-B rating is required for any pyrotechnics storage area. Extinguishers rated as ABC, AB, or BC will have a separate value for the B rating, which indicates the square footage of a class-B fire that a non-expert user should be able to extinguish with it.
  • Label magazines with your name, the name of your project, and the types and quantities of material they contain.

Preparation and Assembly of Pyrotechnic Devices

Wherever magazines are open or pyrotechnics are being prepared, assembled or placed, a surrounding 100′ (30m) zone free of free of open flame, spark-producing equipment, smoking or storage of combustible materials must be enforced

Pyrotechnic Operators and Assistants

  • Pyrotechnic special effects operators must be 21 years of age or older. Technical assistants only need to be 18 years old.
  • Only people familiar with the safety considerations and hazards involved are permitted to handle pyrotechnic materials.
  • All personnel involved in setting up or firing the show are required to wear fire resistant clothing and personal head, eye and hearing protection.
  • All personnel involved in setting up or firing the show must be trained in the use of fire extinguishers.
  • No carelessness, negligence, or unsafe conditions with pyrotechnics shall be tolerated.
  • Do not drink alcohol, take drugs, or smoke when working with pyrotechnics.

Safety Perimeters

An appropriate safety perimeter is required for both set-up and firing of a pyrotechnics show. A member of FAST will advise on the correct perimeter size.

You will need a minimum of one front-line person on your perimeter crew for every 25 feet (7.5m) of the perimeter’s circumference.

Plan to establish the perimeter early enough to allow plenty of time for preparation of the burn, bearing in mind that things rarely go according to plan on the playa.

Make sure that members of your perimeter crew can be easily identified and distinguished from other participants by providing day-glo safety vests for them to wear over their jackets or other outerwear.

The artist and Fire Safety Liaison agree that the safety perimeter shall be of such size that no pyrotechnics, flame, spark or fallout will cross or land outside the perimeter, nor enter, go over, under, on, or around the audience.

Please be sure to read the detailed information about setting up and managing a perimeter in the the Safety Perimeters section of the Open Fire Guidelines page.

Fire Extinguishers

Artist and Fire Safety Liaison agree to have an adequate number of the right types of fire extinguishers on hand during show set-up to extinguish accidental fires.

Material Safety Data Sheets

MSDS for all products used in the pyrotechnic display must be available at the installation when the show is being set up, to guide clean-up activities in case of a material spill, and to provide to emergency medical personnel in case of accidental exposure.

Shooting the Show

Artist agrees that the pyrotechnics display will not start until all performers, safety monitors, and participants are in place, ready and the Fire Art Safety Team (FAST) has granted approval in the form of a signed Pyrotechnics laminate.

Safety sweeps are required:

  • Before the show starts to identify hazards that may have developed since the pyrotechnics were placed;
  • After firing but before perimeter release to identify and mitigate undetonated pyrotechnics or other hazards.


Here are email addresses where you may direct questions concerning:

Art installations in general:
Open Fire:
Flame Effects:

Registration and Approval

Read all about how to register your project and get it approved.

Flame Effects Guidelines

The primal simplicity of an open fire is great and all, but newfangled technology enables all sorts of spinning, swirling, squealing, pink-and-green fire magic, and Burning Man artists make full use of it. The thing is, flame effects involve lots of moving parts and high-pressure flammable fuels, so follow these guidelines to make sure you’re doing it right.

Flame Effect Definition

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.

Safety Guidelines for Flame Effects

The majority of flame effects at Burning Man are Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LP-Gas) effects; LP-Gas is often commonly referred to as propane. Most of the guidelines below deal with LP-Gas as a fuel. Regardless of fuel type or technological basis, all Flame Effects must be constructed in such a way as to meet or exceed applicable laws, codes and industry standards.

The National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) publishes numerous codes and standards for the construction and use of LP-Gas systems, including:

  • NFPA 54 – National Fuel Gas Code
  • NFPA 58 – Liquefied Petroleum Gas Code
  • NFPA 160 – Standard for the Use of Flame Effects Before an Audience

NFPA documents are available for viewing and purchase on the NFPA website and should be reviewed by all Flame Effects artists.

Construction of Flame Effects

  • All LP-Gas cylinders shall be designed, fabricated, tested, and marked in accordance with the regulations of the US Department of Transportation (DOT) or the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code.
  • All LP-Gas cylinders must have an unexpired certification date stamp and be in good working order. Tanks in poor condition or out of date are a danger to fill and may cause injury to the fuel team, the artists, and/or participants.
  • Each LP-Gas flame effect must have a single 1/4-turn shut-off valve as the primary emergency fuel shut-off. When closed, this valve must inhibit all fuel flow to the flame effect, regardless of how many LP-Gas cylinders are connected to the flame effect. This valve must be exposed and visible at all times, and must be clearly marked as the emergency fuel shut-off.
  • All components of the fuel system (fittings, piping, valves, connectors, etc.) must be designed and rated for both the type and pressure of fuel being used. The use of improper fittings can lead to leaks and failures in the fuel system resulting in fires and or injury.
  • All LP-Gas metallic piping and fittings that will operate at a pressure greater than 125 psi shall be schedule 80 or heavier.
  • All LP-Gas Hoses that will be operated in excess of 5 psi shall be designed for a working pressure of at least 350 psi and shall be continuously marked by the manufacturer to indicate its maximum operating pressure and compatibility with LP-Gas.
  • Air or pneumatic line is not acceptable as fuel hose. LP-Gas degrades rubber hose not specifically designed for use with that fuel. This results in the hose cracking from the inside out, potentially leading to a catastrophic failure.
  • Hose clamps are prohibited on LP-Gas hose at any pressure. All fuel hose connections shall be factory made, or constructed with a crimped fitting specifically designed for that purpose. Hose clamps are well known for cutting and chafing fuel lines or coming loose, possibly leading to catastrophic failure.
  • All metallic tubing joints shall use flare fittings. The use of compression fittings or lead soldered fittings are prohibited.
  • Accumulators, surge tanks and other pressure vessels in the system shall be designed, manufactured, and tested in accordance with the ASME Boiler Pressure Vessel Code or the Department of Transportation (DOT) for the pressure of the gas in use.
  • Any welding alteration of pressure vessels, or alteration or fabrication of other system components that hold pressure, must be performed by an American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) certified welder, and must be stamped and certified as such.
  • If the fuel supply pressure exceeds the maximum allowable operating pressure (MAOP) of an accumulator or other pressure vessel, a regulator shall be installed between the fuel supply and the pressure vessel to reduce the pressure below the pressure vessel’s MAOP. A pressure relief valve shall also be installed in the pressure vessel, with a start-to-leak setting at or below the MAOP and a rate of discharge that exceeds the maximum flow rate of the supply container.
  • Fuel tanks for stationary flame effects must be protected from vehicle traffic and be well illuminated at night.
  • flame effects should be constructed and sited in such a way that the flame head and/or hot components are at least six inches from the playa surface, to prevent baking or scarring of the Playa.
  • Any artwork, towers or other structures that incorporate flame effects should be secured from the wind and encircled with an appropriate safety perimeter to prevent injury to participants.

Operation of Flame Effects

Flame Effect Operators

Flame effects operators and assistants must be 21 years of age or older and be trained in the use of fire extinguishers.

Operators and assistants must wear fire resistant clothing while operating flame effects.

Personal Responsibility

No carelessness, negligence, or unsafe conditions with flame effects shall be tolerated. Do not drink, take drugs, or smoke when working with flame effects.

Safety Perimeter

An appropriate audience safety perimeter (and performer’s safety zone if applicable) shall be established well in advance of flame effects operation, and must be approved by FAST. Because of the variety of artwork that incorporates flame effects, a member of FAST will help you determine the correct perimeter distance.

In any case, a 20′ zone around the flame effects must be kept free of all combustible or flammable materials, and nothing should overhang this zone.


Only people familiar with the safety considerations and hazards involved are permitted to connect/disconnect LP-Gas tanks, or to do liquid fuel filling. Wearing personal safety gear (glasses, gloves, etc.) during liquid fuel filling is required.

Daily Safety Check

A daily safety check of all flame effect components and connections is mandatory before operation begins. Never start operation of a flame effect until the daily safety check is completed. If a safety hazard is identified either during the safety check or during operation, the Fire Safety Liaison must delay or halt operation until the hazard is corrected.

Operating Guidelines

Never light a flame effect until all performers, safety monitors and participants are in place and ready.

Never operate a flame effect in such a way that it poses a danger to people or property.

Attending to Flame Effects

flame effects must never be left unattended. The winds in the desert are highly variable, and may create havoc in a poorly monitored installation. Any flame effect found running unattended will be shut down. Egregious and/or repeat offenses will result in the confiscation and/or disabling of the effect.

No Smoking or Open Flame

ABSOLUTELY no smoking or open flame within 10 feet any storage area where flammable liquids or fuel gases are stored. All fuel and flammables must be stored in approved containers which must remain closed except when filling or dispensing, or when connected to a system for use.

Material Safety Data Sheets

MSDS for any hazardous chemicals used in the construction or operation of the flame effect must be kept at the installation, so they are available to guide clean-up activities in case of a material spill, and to provide to emergency medical personnel in case of accidental exposure.


Here are email addresses where you may direct questions concerning:

Art installations in general:
Open Fire:
Flame Effects:
Mutant Vehicle Flame Effects:

Registration and Approval

Read all about how to register your project and get it approved.

Open Fire Guidelines

Open fire projects can be as large as the Temple, or as small and intimate as a fiery urn on open playa. Fire can be a great way to bring folks together on a chilly playa night, or to send your artwork to the spirits in a final fiery conflagration. Whatever the size, all fire platforms and containers need to be six inches off the ground. 

Open Fire Definitions

Open Fire (OF) is defined as simple burning of solid or unpressurized liquid fuels, without any enhancement by mechanical devices, extra oxidizers or pyrotechnic materials.

Burning Man defines three different types or levels of open fire, each with different characteristics, and each requiring different approval processes and safety procedures:

Open Fire Level One (OF-1): Structure on Decomposed Granite on Playa

For the burning of a structure on decomposed granite (DG) on playa. Examples include:

  • A large sculpture burn in close proximity to the playa surface 
  • A large artwork fully engulfed in flames producing a tremendous amount of heat
  • The Man
  • Embrace, Catacomb of Veils

Requirements for OF-1:

  • Close communications with FAST
  • A Burn Laminate
  • A Burn Shield (to prevent burn scars on the playa surface)
  • Safety Perimeter
  • Fire Extinguishers
  • Ranger and/or ESD Support (artwork dependent)

Open Fire Level Two (OF-2): Enclosed Container Fire 

For fire in an enclosed container. OF-2 refers to the simple burning of unpressurized fuel within fireproof containment. Examples include: 

  • Burn barrels
  • Braziers or other raised containers
  • Oil lamps
  • Torches
  • Candles
  • Other simple uses of fire

Requirements for OF-2:

  • Safety perimeter 
  • Fire Extinguishers 
  • Fire must be within appropriate fireproof container and away from playa surface
  • Precautions must be taken to ensure that anything that should not be set on fire (fabric, stage sets, etc.) is kept away from flame

As long as all fire, fuel, embers, etc. are kept contained and away from the playa surface, neither a Burn Shield nor a Burn Laminate are required for this level.

Open Fire Level Three (OF-3): Relocatable Art to Burn 

OF-3 is for Relocatable Art to Burn. It is artwork created/staged in one location that is moved for burning at an approved Burn Shield platform such as The Man platform after the Man has fallen or one of the public Burn Gardens located at 3:00, 6:00 and 9:00 along the Esplanade. 

Requirements for OF-3:

ONLY wood, NO other burnable materials (toxic/synthetics are prohibited by law)

  • NO liquid fuel
  • No personal vehicles may be used for transportation to the Man base
  • At the Man base, please talk to a Ranger first! Provide: plan, safety perimeter
  • Practice good safety! Be aware of your situation (Burn Gardens are tall)
  • Everything must be either in the Burn Garden container or over DG. NOT ON THE PLAYA

Safety Guidelines for Open Fire Level One (OF1)

Burn Shield

A Burn Shield separates and insulates the playa from burn scarring (baking and discoloration) caused by the intense heat of an open fire burn.

An artist proposing an Open Fire Level One (OF1) artwork must include a Burn Shield plan. FAST must approve your Burn Shield plan before you bring your project to the event, and must inspect and approve your Burn Shield in place, as constructed, before you may assemble your artwork on it.

If the on playa Burn Shield is NOT approved, the artist understands and agrees that the artwork will not be burned on the rejected Burn Shield platform. Violation of this agreement by ignoring the guidelines and burning the artwork, or anything on the open Playa without prior approval will be cause for a $1,000 fine (that the artist will be responsible for paying) from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Using decomposed granite (DG) as a Burn Shield:

The simplest and most effective  Burn Shield is a layer of decomposed granite (DG) placed on the surface of the playa prior to construction of the artwork. The thickness and extent of a DG Burn Shield depends on the size and weight of your artwork. When spreading a DG layer, care must be taken not to leave any exposed areas, and to prevent the DG from being displaced by participants. Arrangements for the purchase of DG are made through Burning Man after the pre-event burn meeting between your project team and the FAST Artist Liaison. In addition to the purchase price, a pre-event deposit will be required to insure that the DG you use is thoroughly cleaned by your LNT team prior to removal the morning after your burn.

Using a different type of Burn Shield (other than decomposed granite):

You may propose a different Burn Shield design, but if you choose to do so, you must submit a dimensioned drawing of your proposed platform, showing enough detail to convince FAST that it will in fact provide adequate burn scar protection, and that it will be large enough to capture all pieces of the artwork as they fall. 

You can read much more about Burn Shields on our Burn Scar Prevention page.

Artwork Materials and Construction

Materials NOT To Burn

Toxic Materials:

Avoid incorporating plastics and synthetics into your artwork. The burning of any toxic materials in your artwork is prohibited by law. 

Materials NOT to be burned due to toxic materials:

  • Furniture
  • Paint
  • Rugs
  • Many other objects typically used to decorate artworks. Talk to your FAST Artist Liaison if you have any questions about what is acceptable.

All such items MUST be removed from your artwork before it is burned.

Materials That Create Airborne Embers:

Over the years we have found a short list of materials that, when burned, create excessive embers and floating burning materials. These loose sources of unintended ignition can cause issues for Mutant Vehicles at the burn perimeter, nearby art projects, and participants at the burn. Discuss all materials with the FAST OF Manager pre-event.

Materials NOT to be burned due to embers include:

  • Fabric
  • Paint
  • Cardboard
  • Large sections of papier-mâché
  • Thin wood laminates or pressboard
  • Plywood less than 5/8th inches thick
  • OSB, chipboard, and particle-board

Engineered and Glue Laminated Structural Elements:

While Engineered and Glue Laminated Structural wood has excellent strength and may be useful in larger structures, it is also designed to be fire-resistant. Through experience, we have found that these type of beams can often end up mostly unburned and can remain upright long after the rest of the materials have burned. The result can be the need to hold the perimeter for the time that it takes for the remaining unburned sections to be made safe.

Materials That Require Removal After Burning

Nails, Screws and Other Fasteners:

You can use nails, screws, or other steel fasteners in the construction of your artwork. You are required to clean them from the burn site. A magnet rake is one of the greatest cleanup tools and can be purchased cheaply along with a metal bucket to hold the hot metal.

Safety Perimeter

Your burn’s safety perimeter keeps participants from straying into areas where they could be injured or interfere with the work of your crew. Designing and managing a burn’s perimeter is one of the most complex aspects of the entire burn, with many factors to consider. Read more about Managing a Burn Perimeter here.

Scheduled Burn Time

Although your burn day and time will be decided pre-event during your burn meeting, please confirm that day and time with FAST after checking in at the ARTery. While FAST will try to accommodate your preferred burn time, it can not be guaranteed, and it may be changed due to weather, emergencies, or other unforeseen circumstances.

Your FAST Artist Liaison is responsible for maintaining daily contact with FAST to stay apprised of any schedule adjustments or other advisories. Relevant information will be passed along to the artist.

FAST Lead Coordination Before Burning

At least one hour before your scheduled burn time (or earlier, depending on the complexity of your burn) a member of FAST designated as the FAST Lead (the person supervising your burn) will arrive at your installation at the 9 o’clock position of your burn to identify themselves to the artists to coordinate with the project team (artist and all leads).

Your perimeter must be set and solid before FAST arrives or it could result in a delay or cancellation of your burn! 

Do NOT add fuel to the artwork before the FAST member arrives. The FAST member will make a final check of your piece, and if all is in order, they will issue the Burn Laminate for your piece, and inform the Black Rock Rangers and the Emergency Services Department (ESD) that your piece is on schedule to burn. When you are given the green light, you will be informed to fuel your piece and complete your preparations to burn. A FAST member will also check the weather. Barring any high wind conditions or other negative weather factors, you will receive an OK to burn from the FAST member.

You can and should be making other preparations prior to that time, however, and continue making them after the FAST Lead arrives.

The FAST Lead is a knowledgeable resource who can help you troubleshoot last-minute problems with your preparations. If in doubt about anything, don’t guess: make use of the FAST Lead’s expertise!

The FAST Lead has final say over when you are allowed to:

  • Apply accelerants
  • Start your performance and/or pyrotechnics show, if any
  • Ignite the artwork
  • Release the safety perimeter

Establishing the Perimeter

See Managing the Perimeter. As noted there, plan to establish a smaller perimeter several hours ahead of burn time to allow for preparation of the structure, loading of pyrotechnics, etc. Create a perimeter before prepping for the burn. At that point, participants are no longer allowed on the site for safety.

Preparing the Structure

Once the perimeter is set and there is no danger of participants entering the work area, the preparations can begin, including:

  • Clearing structure contents
  • Cordwood loading
  • Structural hobbling
  • Pyro loading

All pyrotechnic material must be listed and approved pre-event. An inspection of its placement will be required on-site at the discretion of FAST. Any questions please contact Pyrotechnics at

Final Checks and Approval

When all the above preparations are complete, the FAST Lead, Burn Lead, and pyrotechnic operator (if needed) will make a final check of the artwork, looking for any stowaways or stragglers, and checking for any hazardous conditions that may have developed while preparations were underway.

If liquid accelerants are needed, a fueling team applies them at this time after given the clear by the FAST Lead on site, using methods documented in the Burn Scenario and approved by FAST at the pre-event meeting. A fire safety team member with fully-charged fire extinguishers in hand — and trained in their use — must accompany and cover fuel team members while they are applying accelerants.

After this final check and fueling of the structure, the “No-Man’s Land” zone of the burn circle is closed to further entry until the artwork is ignited and the structure has fallen.

Just before ignition, the FAST Lead checks the weather. Barring any high wind conditions or other negative weather factors, you will receive an OK to burn from the FAST Lead. The FAST Lead issues the necessary Burn Laminate(s) for your burn, and informs the Black Rock Rangers and the Emergency Services Department that the artwork is on schedule to burn.


At this time the final sequence of the burn, including performance, pyrotechnics, and any ignition ritual, can begin.

All of these elements of the burn must be conducted in a way that prevents premature ignition, to ensure the safety of the fuel team while they are in or near the fueled structure.

Important Note: No one on the fuel team should be tasked with the actual ignition of the structure, as there is a chance they will have fuel on their clothing.

Hazard Mitigation

FAST will make the decision to drop the perimeter when all conditions are determined safe. For all burns the decision on when to drop the perimeter is based on a variety of determinants such as when the highest pieces of the artwork have fallen. The idea is that a hazardous situation exists until all components of the artwork over seven feet tall that may conceivably fall, have actually fallen and no pieces of art are off the DG. 

Any unburned materials that have fallen beyond the Burn Shield must be thrown or pushed back into the fire. These items must not become tripping hazards for participants approaching the fire once the perimeter is dropped.

If any rebar, ground screws/ground anchors or stakes are protruding above the playa surface that cannot be removed before the perimeter comes down, cones must be placed over them to alert participants.

Following structure collapse, for projects involving pyrotechnics FAST will NOT allow anyone to go INTO a structure, but if they are in appropriate safety gear (i.e. firefighter turnout gear) they will be permitted to do a sweep around the perimeter of the structure for any large fuel mortars, or unspent pyrotechnics. They should be accompanied by an also well geared up member of the FAST team (preferably from the Pyro team). Fuel mortars should be tipped toward the burning structure, and pyro should be either removed if it is safe to do so, or placed into the fire. All materials must be neutralized before the perimeter is dropped.

ONLY then should the perimeter be released.

Releasing the Perimeter

The perimeter can be released after:

  1. All hazard mitigations listed above have been completed to the satisfaction of the FAST Lead, and
  2. No part of the artwork stands more than 7 feet higher than the playa. 
  3. Once FAST gives the ok then Rangers, BPSG and/or a combination of these will work with the Perimeter Leads to release the perimeter at the same time for safety.

Burn Aftermath

After the perimeter has been released, all members of the burn crew must be accounted for at the rally point at 9 o’clock. Perimeter Volunteers are to check out at the rally point at the 3:05 o’clock where they checked in. Any crew member on either team who fails to report to their rally point for check-out should be considered “missing in action,” and possibly injured or incapacitated, until they are located.

An overnight crew must stay with the embers to ensure participant safety and to shovel and rake the embers to prepare the area for clean up (LNT) in the morning. Do not allow participants to throw items that are not to be burned, like plastics or hazardous materials, into the fire.

Leave No Trace

The Artist, Leave No Trace Lead, and crew are responsible for all clean up at the installation site, both nightly and when the event ends. The area must be as clean as when you found it, and all MOOP you remove must be packed out of Black Rock City. This is what it means to LEAVE NO TRACE.

Think about playa clean-up while you are creating your artwork, both in terms of the usual trash that accumulates and extraordinary situations such as fuel spills. How will you prevent these things from happening, and how will you respond if they do?

You must have available at the installation all necessary clean-up tools and materials for both kinds of eventuality, such as shovels, rakes (including “magnetic rakes”), garbage cans (metal ones if you will be dealing with hot ashes), and sealable containers for storage and removal of spill-contaminated playa dirt.


Here are email addresses where you may direct questions concerning:

Art installations in general:
Open Fire:
Flame Effects:

Registration and Approval

Read all about how to register your project and get it approved.

Leave No Trace for Fire Artists

Most of the information on this page relates to installation (on-playa) fire art, but much of it will be helpful even if your fire art is in your camp or on a mutant vehicle.

New Standard: Introducing the LNT Grid

  1. After checking in at the ARTery, you’ll be escorted to the site of your art project. The center of your project location is marked with a CD and a plastic marker (“floofy”).
  2. Additionally, the Floofy marks the center of your Leave No Trace (LNT) Grid, which delineates the boundaries of your Leave No Trace focus. You and your crew are responsible to line-sweep the LNT Grid in its entirety before we check you out to leave.
  3. Your LNT Grid will encompass the ENTIRE area that you and your crew and project occupy such as: art, staging areas, wood shop, metal shop, kitchen, trash, recycling, burn barrels, etc. This is both for the build site pre event, as well as the actual art installation site. For most projects (unless otherwise stated), you are responsible for a 50’ area outside of your project footprint, as well as any additional audience area. You are responsible for everything in this area, including trash left by other participants.

MOOP Public Enemy Number 1: WOOD CHIPS!

Also known as splinters, bark, sawdust, and wood debris. This is the biggest and fastest growing MOOP problem on the Black Rock Desert.

To prevent wood chips from getting to the playa in the first place, do as much pre-cutting off-playa as possible. If you must cut wood on-playa, do it in an enclosed area such as a shade structure with walls, and lay down a carpet which you can then roll up and carefully transport off-playa with the wood chips secured inside.

Where possible, choose plywood over particle board when building your projects, as particle board cracks and splinters more easily.

Pre-Burn Arrangements

To protect the playa from scarring from large-scale open fire burns, we offer the opportunity to arrange for the purchase of decomposed granite (DG) as a burn platform. Arrangements for this will be made after your Burn Meeting conference call with the Artist Liaison from the Fire Art Safety Team (FAST). The DG will be dropped at the center location of your fire art project.

All burn platforms must be six inches off the ground. 

NOTE: No decomposed Granite (DG) can be provided without prior pre-event arrangement.

Read more about DG burn shields on our Burn Scar Prevention page.


  1. Make sure that all large wood debris have burned down to nothing.
  2. Make sure that all metal debris, large and small, has been removed.
  3. Use a magnetic sweeper and landscape rake to easily pull up all small metal such as screws, nails, staples, etc.
  4. When your site has been deemed as clean as it should be by a member of the ARTery team, the Heavy Equipment team will be notified that the DG can be removed.
  5. Pick up all leftover MOOP using the line-sweep method, using the LNT Grid as your team’s boundary. Be sure to check off the art, staging areas, wood shop, metal shop, trash, recycling, burn barrels, etc.
  6. Using your LNT Grid as your guide, make your own MOOP map. It doesn’t have to be fancy but this information will be used to help the DPW Playa Restoration Team double check your area know where to focus their efforts on any problems before the BLM Inspection.

Deposit Return

A return of your project’s clean up deposit will be considered after a post-event LNT Report is submitted to the Art Department and the Playa Restoration Team.

Line Sweep Tips

  1. Think of the grid in terms of the Red, Yellow, Green just like the MOOP Map.
  2. Think of your first pass as more of an assessment pass. If an area seems RED and becomes too overwhelming, mark the area and focus on it on your second pass. Try to keep the Line Sweep moving until you’ve assessed the entire grid. Do a second and third pass of your grid until it’s Green.
  3. Your LNT Grid will be designed optimally for 30 people standing six feet apart but can be done with fewer people. The more people you have, the more territory will be covered and therefore go faster. The most important thing is to not be further away than 6ft apart from each other. 6ft apart is the optimum number.
  4. Orange Traffic cones placed at the edges of your LNT Grid work best at defining a visual boundary for your line-sweep team.

Orange traffic cones also work well visually defining a Red Area AKA “Hotspot” to come back to focus on.

Creating Dangerous Art Safely

“Basura Sagrada” Temple burn 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.

Building the Temple

Spirituality and Community

The Process and Intention of Bringing a Temple to Black Rock City

By John Mosbaugh aka Moze

Out of the desert grew a ritual,
a celebration,
a participatory moment

Out of the moment grew a need
A need fulfilled by a temple
A place to let go,
to remember,
to celebrate

The temple became a tradition
It grew from the playa,
from the temporary city,
from the culture
Its methods were ours,
its tradition was ours
It became a part of our city

And a part of us. – Jess Hobbs

It is no mistake that Black Rock City is laid out the way it is. Changes to the City map have been made in the last 25 years to accommodate changing population, address new civic needs and create additional spaces for citizens to gather, be they Center Camp Café, the Plazas or the Man Pavilions. Rod Garrett has discussed at length the evolution of the city layout and with this evolution has come experimentation that has been lauded as revolutionary, organic and even fit for settlements on other planets.

About this photo...Part of this process has been the appearance of Burning Man’s Temple. David Best and Jack Haye brought their Temple of the Mind to the playa in 2000, a structure that would become the first of a long line of Temples. When their friend and fellow Temple builder, Michael Hefflin, tragically died in a motorcycle crash prior to leaving for Burning Man, once on playa, the art installation became a memorial to him.[1] David and Jack both talk about how Black Rock City citizens had a spontaneous reaction in the Temple and began leaving remembrances to people they’d lost. In 2001 David and Jack brought the Temple of Tears also called the Mausoleum, and the tradition of the Temple at Burning Man began. There has been a Temple every year since; David Best being the lead artist for half of them to date, with the other Temples built by a wide range of artists.

This article explores the serious nature of the Temple and its cosmological importance as part of Black Rock City and as part of our shared Burning Man Culture. It discusses artistic and skillset competence as well as what part volunteers take in the process of a Temple build and how that is different from most other large scale art installations.

Burning Man takes the Temple seriously, and while just about everything at Burning Man is amplified both figuratively and literally, the Temple is also amplified, but not with booming music and wild ecstatic dancing or with art cars that slither along the desert floor or with other lunatic cacophony. While the Temple is something that does reflect the mad masquerade and joy of our community, it does so with sacredness, solemnity, a sense of remembrance, grief and renewal that can appear as a stark contrast to the rest of the event. It is that contrast that helps to define the Burning Man community as anything but one dimensional.

About this photo...Other tangible representations of the Burning Man ethos such as Burners Without Borders and Black Rock Solar also serve the purpose of defining our community. We are very much about absurdity and expression, but also we are deconstructing prevailing ideologies of what is “normal” and creating postmodern expressions of service and civic duty with a common theme of healing ourselves and the planet we inhabit.

Artists who build Temples in Black Rock City are not just building a large scale art project. They’re creating something for the community and fulfilling a civic need as caretakers of that venerable space. One of the first questions one should ask themselves if they want to propose an idea for a Temple is not “WHAT am I doing this for?” but rather “WHO am I doing this for?” from what I have ascertained after talking with some of the artists who have built Temples at Burning Man.

Structure of Passage and Hierophany of Black Rock City

About this photo...A long trail of rites and initiations [2] lie along the central spine that begins just off the highway pavement and on to Black Rock Desert. Pilgrims to Burning Man move through porticos of the Gate, up Black Rock City’s entrance road flagellum, past Burma Shave signs that educate the anticipation-drenched denizens in carnival conveyances with values and initiations, up through the Greeters station and into Black Rock City proper. Once inside the circle streets of the City, the backbone continues through Center Camp and through Center Camp Café where you are presented with a choice of staying where you can still purchase things like coffee and ice and can be entertained (or entertain). Or you may, hopefully, continue on your journey.

Moving along the walkway from the Café, you encounter the Keyhole; an imaginary last point before you step across the Esplanade into an unknown realm where nothing but art awaits you. If you choose to wander up the spired promenade to the Man you will reach what has been called the “Axis Mundi” of Black Rock City. This concept has been discussed by Lee Gilmore in her book Theater in a Crowded Fire [3] and on the Burning Man Blog where she writes, “The placement of the Man at the BRC’s center readily evokes what historian of religion Mircea Eliade called the axis mundi-a symbolic manifestation of the sacred center of the cosmos and the location of hierophany-the eruption of the sacred into the profane world.”[4]

About this photo...Eliade and Arnold Van Genep figure heavily in the ontological conception of the layout of Black Rock City. 2003’s theme Beyond Belief was born partially out of Eliade’s (and Rudolf Otto’s) writings[5],[6] and 2011’s theme, Rites of Passage, drew heavily from Van Gennep’s book [7] of the same name. These ideas are integral to the intellectual foundation of the layout of Black Rock City that Larry Harvey has noted is “open in the front, open to infinity”.

The spot along that grand promenade that stands as the last large gathering point before reaching the sprawling “wholly other” outer playa, is the Temple, beyond which are a scattering of projects out to the trash fence and that symbolic infinity. The Temple is at the edge of where we bring order to chaos. It is where our community goes to unburden themselves.

Why is this talk of cosmology important? We know how to get to the Temple from the highway.

About this photo...Burning Man is known as one of the biggest parties on earth. It is also well known as one of the pre-eminent places for public art, large sculptures, art cars, participatory experience and alternative culture. However Burning Man is not just an art gallery, a rave, a camping trip or a place to discover something new about yourself. It is not just a hopeful phenomenon or some incarnation of a Dionysian festival. It is the sum of all these, and many other things. There was a time when Burning Man was just a weeklong event in the desert, but that is no longer the case. It’s now something that exists throughout the world, appearing in many different iterations with different purposes as organizations such as Black Rock Arts Foundation, Burners Without Borders, Black Rock Solar, the Burning Man Project or in the Regionals. These entities all share a common ethos and shared community values, even if we are a diverse bunch.

What we have in Black Rock City is a microcosm of humanity. Within this microcosm is what M. Eliade called a profane or mundane world; meaning that which is not sacred. In our realm of Black Rock City, we have plenty of cacophony, satires of every known aspect of the world we live in, fantastical art, a critical mass of events espousing our shared concern and curiosity, and a community all living together for that week to cross pollinate each other with our ideas, aspirations and evolutionary inclinations.

About this photo...The theory goes that as societies mature, and their intellect develops, mythologies are created to explain the human condition. Larry mentioned this in his Viva Las Vegas speech as we’ve “learned that we need myths and stories that can tell us who we are. [We’ve] learned that we need unities of time and place, a coherent theatre in which to act out life’s drama: a place you can belong to. The prospect of such things, this idea of a greater home on earth, is extremely attractive to human beings.” [8] From myths that we create springs Eliade’s concept of hierophany [9]; the creation of sacred spaces. Alexei Lidov [10] further suggests that the creation of sacred spaces at first happens because of what he calls “heirotopy” the “creation of sacred spaces regarded as a special form of creativity,” Lidov’s idea is that the hand of man creates, influences and brings into existence a place where “Every sacred space implies a hierophany, an eruption of the sacred that results in detaching a territory from the surrounding cosmic milieu and making it qualitatively different”.

In the sphere of Black Rock City, the Temple delineates the profane or mundane from the sacred and that juxtaposition provides a framework for Burning Man to have a deeper significance than if it were just a weeklong festival in the desert.

About this photo...With this in mind, I asked David Best if he thought that the Temple would have come into existence eventually if he and Jack Haye hadn’t built that first Temple. I’ve mentioned before that David Best can be quite a charming man, with blue piercing eyes that look into you when you’re speaking. He listens intently to people who come to him and there is an endless stream of people who want to talk with him. When I asked that question he told me a story.

“Do I think it would have come? Well gee, that’s a vanity question you’ve asked me.” He laughed and sarcastically replied, “Don’t know where I’ll go with that. Y’no, I’m the greatest guy in the world.” Then he continued,

“I went down and talked to [a large computer company] and they call their place a campus. They have a barber shop, you can get a haircut. There were three different restaurants, at their campus. I forget how many people are there, 2,000, 3,000 people. If you feed that information into a computer, for 2,000 people, at least three of them are going to have lost a family member. And they don’t have any place in their campus to address [that] and they want to profess that they’re building a family yet they don’t have a place to address the loss of a family member.”

“It’s like, when Burning Man built up that population, we all of the sudden needed that. It was just an obvious absence. There was a void that no one really noticed. They got the porta potties, they’ve got the police station, they’ve got the medical and they’ve got the Man. They just didn’t have a place for grief. And the Man kind of did grief for a while, but it was a mixture of so much celebration that it was hard to really have a quiet place.”

“So in all truthfulness, it would have happened sometime. The fact that I was lucky enough to do one is a lucky punch.”[11]

The Process of Building a Temple

There is a lot of empty space to fill up in Black Rock City.

People interested in building the Temple each year submit proposals to the Burning Man organization to basically do what Larry has said is one of the main purposes of Burning Man, “To blend life and art so you can’t tell the difference.”

About this photo...I spoke with a lot of people when I was researching what it took to build a Temple. Obviously, if you think you have the skills and resources to build a Temple at Burning Man, you’ve successfully built large scale art installations out there before and you’re well aware of the challenges you face. You understand how to keep a team productive and cohesive. You have tools and access to places to prebuild the Temple. You can build something that is safe, accessible, finished, and that won’t require last minute fixes just to get it standing and safe enough for Burning Man. You understand what “dust days” are and how to incorporate them into a project timeline. You have a group of people with mad sets of skills and a drive to try to pull off something as difficult as building something at Burning Man that everyone will notice and have an opinion on how you did.

Every person I spoke with told me that a Temple build is something so important to the community that there’s a lot of pressure to get it done on time and to have it ready for when Black Rock City citizens begin arriving on Sunday. The Temple isn’t an art installation that can be in the process of going up throughout the week. It isn’t the kind of installation that can be bailed out on playa at the last minute. It is something that only those who have proven they can handle a large scale installation should even think about attempting.

Everyone has their own style of getting it done. The most important thing is that it gets done and I was fortunate enough to talk to some of the people who have done that.

About this photo...Bill Codding who’s worked on several of David’s Temple told me their crew has a flat structure, with David running the show and all the volunteers taking direction from him. They have a head framer and people with skill sets in routing, carpentry and who can train the volunteers, but everyone has the ability to work on what they want to with David orchestrating everything. They have about 300 people on the Temple crew who have worked on various Temples over the years and Bill has a list of people he can call on, but getting volunteers isn’t an issue, as there are plenty of people who always want to work on the Temple.

At the work site in 2012, weeks before the Temple was opened, Chunk, aka Richard told me that about 1/3rd of their crew are skilled laborers and “There’s lots of on the job training and I’m working with David for the artistic and community experience. You don’t get that in everyday life. Seeing people enjoy it. The overall creation is a thing of beauty in the flames. It has a phoenix affect and is catharsis for so many people. We’re all contributing to Black Rock City’s Temple as a place of grieving. It’s a sacred space, not a disco.”[12]

About this photo...I also spoke with Jess Hobbs who in 2010, along with Rebecca Anders and Peter Kimelman designed and headed up the building of the Temple of Flux. Their group had an existing infrastructure of people who had worked together on a bunch of projects and they came at it with all their combined knowledge. They put together a team that included structural engineers and experienced carpenters. They also included novices because a big part of their organization’s passion is having people learn new skills by building collaborative art. Jess stressed that a project as large as the Temple also needs to have an extensive Administration team to handle Finance, Fundraising and to organize resources and volunteers. They were able to successfully utilize the Burning Man social network and effectively advertise their fundraising efforts at mainstream publications like CNN and Fast Company.

About this photo...Jess also mentioned that past Temple builders were helpful when they had questions, notably David Umlas and Marrilee Ratcliffe who had built Fire of Fires Temple the year before in 2009 and Tuk Tuk and Shrine who built 2008’s Basura Sagrada Temple. The Burning Man artist community is a dynamic one where collaboration and knowledge sharing is paramount and the sum total of Temple building knowledge is accessible for the most part.

About this photo...I was talking with Jack Haye about how things developed with the first Temples. How did elements of the Temple come about? He was the original Construction co-ordinator and continues to consult with David when he is building the Temple. Jack explained how the original Temple was a project built by their camp. He talked about the organic spontaneity of things that became part of the Temple; the original dinosaur cutouts they discovered that were recycled to create the ornate decorations, the found wooden blocks on the property David and Jack had their studios on in Northern California, that became pieces of wood where people inscribed names of their loved ones to be burned. He told me how there was an evolution of elements such as the central structure (an altar, or with the Temple of Juno, the chandelier) being a remembrance to people who took their own lives.

About this photo...Each time a new artist takes on the Temple, they re-imagine it, but bring elements of what has become a structural definition along with them. The Temple of Flux was probably one of the biggest departures from previous Temple designs and they intentionally refashioned the conventional idea of the Temple, but even then they created a space and in that space had “caves” for memorials. They also kept one of these caves as a remembrance place for suicides. Basura Sagrada, headed by Shrine and Tuk Tuk conceptualized the Temple as their “Sacred Trash” concept with the goal of making “something amazing and exotic out of materials deemed unworthy, the stuff we throw away every day. And while it is obvious that making something beautiful out of refuse is a political act, the question we hope to answer with this project is whether it can also be a spiritual act. We believe that it can.” [13] Mark Grieve built two Temples with the Temple Crew, 2005’s Temples of Dreams that utilized space in a village of shrines, pagodas and spires around a central Temple and the Temple of Hope in 2006 that featured a grand central stupah. In 2011, Chris “Kiwi” Hankins, Diarmaid “Irish” Horkan and Ian “Beave” Beaverstock and the International Arts Mega Crew (IAM) set out to build the largest Temple ever brought to the playa using “49,360 lineal feet of Sustainable Forestry Initiative certified lumber” [14] The Temple of Transition was massive, with five towers connected to the main tower by arching walkways.

Jess Hobbs put it really well when she told me “Burning Man is an experiment and the Temple should also be an experiment.”[15]

Volunteers and our Community

About this photo...One thing unites all Temple builders. They are building something that is all inclusive and for all Black Rock City citizens. As such, certain design elements have been carried forward with each reinterpretation of the Temple including creating a space that is both intimate, with areas (often called altars) for folks to leave tributes, as well as creating a large enough gathering space capable of holding hundreds (possibly a thousand) at a time, so that it’s a true community area.

When I was hanging out with David Best’s Temple crew I noticed that, like most projects at Burning Man, the volunteers care deeply about the Temple, but there is an added dimension to this particular project. Many of them have lost someone close to them and the Temple has helped them to grieve and let go. Every person on the Temple Crew I met told me that when they heard David was building the Temple in 2012, they wanted to work with him. The process of building a Temple, for a majority of the Temple Crew, is cathartic in the same way the Burn of the Temple is and many of them feel they are contributing in remembrance of someone they’ve lost.

I asked Jess Hobbs about volunteers. The Flaming Lotus Girls, and now the Flux Foundation have a lot of members. How did they handle the influx of people who wanted to work with them? She said, “We had a lot of people come to us to work on the Temple. We took into consideration if they’d worked on Temples before and we tried to accommodate everyone” then she added that “The Temple attracts people who are grieving and in the process of letting go. We had some really heavy moments with people, especially the day before we burned it.”

About this photo...Tuk Tuk talked about how so many people volunteer to make “The Temple part of their own. They wanted to touch a piece of it.”[16]

The Temple Guardians are another volunteer phenomenon who appeared organically in 2002. Part of their purpose of “holding space” is “to protect the Temple and all of those who visit it” and they state “We do not make rules, nor are we enforcers; we watch quietly and act skillfully when necessary to protect the safety and sacred space of the Temple.” [17]

About this photo...David Best handles his volunteers with such empathy it was something that helped me develop a deeper understanding of what the Temple is all about. Watching him interact with his crew by taking time no matter what was happening and to listen to them, console them and help them through whatever process of letting go they were going through, was pretty intense and demonstrated to me one of the reasons our community is something I care so deeply about. There are other memorial art installations that come to the playa year after year, but the Temple has become a focus of so much of that energy that not only is it moving to see it in action, it is important for people to realize just what kind of a burden they are taking on if they want to propose building a Temple. Volunteers will appear who have motives that are deeper than simply “getting the job done”.

I talked with David Best about his volunteers and he told me the story of a woman who, while she had few skills that could be tapped to build a Temple, wanted passionately to work on it. David had been in a discussion about building the Temple with another artist who mentioned that they thought there would be no room for someone like this woman in his crew if he were to build the Temple.

David relayed that the woman had said,

“I can’t do anything, I have no skills, but I want to be on the Temple crew”and he continued,

“We were going, how we are going to deal with her? And she came up to the work weekend. I thought maybe we can just tire her out. Maybe she can just see for herself that she can’t do it. Well, she didn’t quit. She didn’t quit. And we finally went, she’s gotta be on the crew and she came up to me in line, we were at lunch one day working on the Temple, and she came up and said, “I want to thank you for letting me be on the crew” and I said we wouldn’t be worth a shit if we didn’t let you on the crew. We wouldn’t be a Temple crew if you couldn’t work with us.”

David told this to the other artist who said “Well you know you can’t have people who slow your project down.”

David replied, “You don’t build a temple for the finished product, you build it for the crew. It’s for those people who are building it. I could build a temple with 20 people in half the time. I’ve done it in half the time. But what it would lose is its soul and the heart. And that comes from P being in a wheelchair or T being unable to do that, or someone else who’s artistically challenged or someone who’s challenged using tools. It’s those layers of the commitment from those people.”

“We’re talking about other people coming to build it and I’m saying that in the screening process of someone saying hey I want to build the Temple; we kinda have to look for what the intention is. Is it to make a spectacular, the biggest burn you can possibly make? I mean that’s kinda cool, but there’s gotta be something else.”[18]

Someone sitting at the table with us said, “It has to spiritually resonate” and David agreed.


About this photo...When we think about intention, we should return to the question artists who want to build a Temple should ask themselves, not “WHAT am I doing this for?” but rather “WHO am I doing this for?”

Jack Haye told me that their camp in 2000 and 2001 that created the original Temples was called Sultan’s Oasis, and their themecamp description was:

“The Sultan’s camp is to be a place where you can prostrate yourself before a greater entity and find transformation” and in 2001 it was “The sultan is back at his oasis, offering weary travelers a place to rest.”

About this photo...Jack said their philosophy was one of service and that is something that needs to be impressed on people who attend Burning Man. Jack said that “in camp we would invite people in and say ‘How can we serve you’, not touchy feely, but ‘How can I help you?’ And the Temple is like that. It’s a shared community art piece. Some people want to build it to become rock stars but it’s really all about that service.”[19]

Jack doesn’t see the Temple as a resume builder. It belongs to Black Rock City. It is a work of art, but it doesn’t exist as a piece of art unto itself. There are plenty of pieces each year on the playa that exist for themselves, as beautiful sculptures. The Temple is different.

Jack said, “It’s not there to call attention to itself, it is there as a sacred, spiritual space.”

Sealed Up, Never to Return

About this photo...Personally I was ambivalent about the Temple until this year. One year in the mid aughts, I put a picture of my grandparents in there with a goodbye and good luck inscription to them. Another year I made a little shrine to my dog of 16 years who I had to put down, but this year, after hanging out with so many people and hearing their stories of loss and letting go of that loss, of forgiving themselves and of taking part in building the Temple or of leaving totems to their loved ones that, as David Best has said, “everything is sealed up, never to return”[20] I came to an awareness that the Temple once complete and filled with remembrance is something consecrated and very significant to our community.

On Sunday night I walked out to the Temple burn and hung out, unexpectedly, in the Temple Bus with two new friends, one who was celebrating her mother who’d died 19 years ago. My friend had been allowed to get on a boom lift to place her mother’s ashes in the spire towards the top and her mom was next to a cat which delighted my friend. She said. “We celebrate the dead, but life is for the living. She’s been with me for 19 years, and she’s next to a cat. She always loved cats.”

About this photo...Bagpipes played. Diva Marisa and Reverend Billy’s choir sang “Ave Maria”, and the three of us took swigs of Jameson befitting an Irish wake as the full moon inched towards the Temple. Once the Temple was lit by wandering purposeful shadow shapes in the courtyard carrying fire, we watched the roaring orange and red flames grow then engulf that structure until it became a delicate black skeletal outline against the glowing blazing inferno. I hugged my friend and saw the flames in her eyes as she looked on smiling, and said, “Mom has the east, the best view on the playa. Her and the cat.”

When the spire outline grew thin, it finally leaned over slowly, and then collapsed upon the rest of the Temple sending a great chimney of embers floating upwards. My friend said, “Mother is free and so am I now. I really feel her. She would have liked this.”

I have no doubt she did, indeed, like it.[21]


I have attempted here to discuss the cosmological importance of the Temple as it appears in Black Rock City and to impress that it is a vital part of our shared Burning Man experience. The Temple is not just an art installation, but it encompasses a large range of serious spiritual requisites that add dimension to our community. Building a Temple in Black Rock City requires not only artistic and craft skillsets, and is something that is taken very seriously by our community, but along with it comes a set of volunteers who want to be part of it, to build and to protect it. As such, the Temple is something special and is, in one way or another, shared by all of us.

About this photo...As with all Honorarium projects, each year’s Temple crew is expected to create something extraordinary, on time and within budget, but building a Temple also involves a substantial responsibility to not only the citizens of Black Rock City and the Burning Man community in general, but to the volunteers who will want to take part in the building of the Temple. It is something bigger than any artist who conceives and pulls it off because it is something that helps to define who we are as a community. It is about creating a shared space for everyone to take a part in, as Sarah Pike notes the Temple is “Burning Man’s largest collective piece of art.”[22]

When they were building the Basura Sagrada Temple, Shrine said, “You are putting in what you want to let go, or putting in how you want to change your life. It’s what makes a sacred space.”[23]

About this photo...In 2012 David designed thresholds to keep out bicycles and the distracting sound from art cars. Upon venturing out there, I felt like I was stepping across that threshold into another reality. The atmosphere was heavy with reflection and quiet chanting, prayers, the drawn out grrr of a digeridoo and other reverent sounds. I was overwhelmed with all the notes and altars, inscriptions, photos and totems that covered every square inch of the walls staring back at me. That most intimate space swells with so much grief and remembrance, so much reflection and meditation it is indeed what David Best has called an “emotional nexus”. The Temple provides a space for that essential urge, but unlike religion, that feeling is coming directly from our core, unadulterated by dogma.

Creating this place carries with it a heavy responsibility and should not be taken lightly.

About this photo...Whoever is building the Temple each year brings it to our city as a gift for everyone. A friend of mine said “It’s a profound space. If people can’t confront it, they want to escape.” If you have been fortunate enough to not have experienced something that rocked your reality, you may have no use for the Temple. But if you ever need it, someone will be building it for you each year in Black Rock City.

Jess Hobbs told me, “We wanted to bring back the silence of the Burn. It was a gift and the Temple was the biggest thing we’d ever burned. It was a gift we gave to the community, but the biggest gift we ever got was what the community gave back to us.”

I’ve been to many Temple Burns over the years, but this year as I was trying to understand on a deeper level what it all meant, I felt that I’d come closer to realizing what a gift all our Temple artists, volunteers and playa citizens create each year. It is all about affirmation, closure, forgiveness and healing. On Sunday of the event this year I tried to describe how it feels to be there as a Temple burns and wrote the following that is not concerned with the how and why, the philosophy and meaning.

It just is.

About this photo...“Tonight the Temple burns and all of the emotion we’ve put in there this week will wash up in a cathartic column of fire, sparks and ash that will send those notes of love and loss and of grief and forgiveness swirling into the night sky. Dust tornadoes will form and dance around us as if they are our loved ones lost, caressing us in the firelight’s glow, saying do not worry, everything is as perennial as the seasons, or the plants that return each spring or the love that brings us all together eventually.”

Huge Thanks to everyone who contributed to this article by letting me interview them and thanks to Portaplaya, aka Todd Gardnier who took many photographs this year of the Temple and those who build it.

Also, there is an accompanying blog post where you can record your comments to others’ comments about your thoughts on this article.

[1] Lori Van Meter. “The Temples at Burning Man”, 2007 p. 3.

[2] Moze, Initiations and Salutations. Burning Man Blog. 2011.

[3] Lee Gilmore, Theater In A Crowded Fire (University of California Press 2010)

[4] Lee Gilmore, The Temple: Sacred Heart of Black Rock City. Burning Man Blog. 2010

[5] Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion (English Translation, Harcourt, Inc. 1957)

[6] Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy (Oxford Univ. Press 1923)

[7] Arnold Van Gennep, The Rites of Passage (Univ. of Chicago Press 1960)

[8] Larry Harvey, Viva Las Vegas, Speech at Cooper Union, New York City, 2002.

[9] Op. cit. Mircea Eliade, p. 26

[10] Alexei Lidov, Hierotopy. The Creation of Sacred Spaces as a Form of Creativity and Subject of Cultural History (Progress-tradition, Moscow) 2006, p 33-58.

[11] Moze, Interview with David Best, (Black Rock City 2012)

[12] Moze, A Sacred Place amidst the Dust 2012

[13] Basura Sagrada: The 2008 Burning Man Temple, (2008)

[14] Temple of Transition – The tallest temporary wooden structure in the world. (2011)

[15] Moze, Interview with Jessica Hobbs, 2012

[16] Basura Sagrada, (Current TV 2007)

[17] About the Temple Guardians,

[18] Moze, Interview with David Best, (Black Rock City 2012)

[19] Moze,Interview with Jack Haye (2012)

[20] The Last Temple, Interview with David Best (Current TV 2007)

[21] Op. cit. Moze, A Sacred Place amidst the Dust

[22] Sarah M. Pike, Burning Down the Temple: Religion and Irony in Black Rock City(rd Magazine) (2011)

[23] Basura Sagrada, (Current TV 2007)

If you are interested in learning more about how you can build the Temple in Black Rock City, visit BRC Temple Grants.


Leave No Trace for Artists

All artists who bring art to Black Rock City agree to Leave No Trace. This means leaving the playa in the clean, pristine state it was in before they arrived to build their art – completely clear of all debris such as nails, fasteners, wood chips, sawdust, ashes, and other other remnants produced by the artwork or participants engaging with it.

Your Area of Responsibility: The LNT GRID

After checking in at the ARTery, you’ll be escorted to your art build site, where the center of your art project location is marked with a CD and a plastic marker (“floofy”). That floofy marks the center of your Leave No Trace (LNT) Grid, the area which you and your crew are responsible to line-sweep in its entirety before you leave playa. For most art projects (unless otherwise stated), the LNT Grid is the area centered on the floofy that extends50 feet beyond the outer edge of your project footprint.

Your LNT Grid must also encompass the ENTIRE area that you, your crew and project occupy such as staging areas, wood/metal shop, trash, recycling, burn barrels, etc.

MOOP Top Public Enemy Number 1: Rebar, Tent Stakes and Ground Anchors

The biggest and fastest growing MOOP problem on the Black Rock Desert is tent stakes – as well as rebar, lag bolts, and other ground anchors used to fasten structures to the playa. Literally thousands of them were left behind after our most recent event. To avoid this outcome in the future, you should 1) keep track of exactly how many tent stakes or rebars you pound into the ground when setting up your camp or artwork, and confirm that count when you extract them from the ground during strike; and 2) bring a pair of vice grips or other appropriate tool (with those and some leverage there’s nothing you can’t pull out!)

Another big MOOP culprit, especially for artists building on playa, is wood chips. To prevent splinters, bark, sawdust, and wood debris from getting to the playa, do as much pre-cutting off-playa as possible. If you must cut wood on-playa, do it in an enclosed area such as a shade structure with walls, and lay down a carpet which you can roll up and carefully transport off-playa with the wood chips secured inside. Where possible, choose plywood over particle board when building your projects, as particle board cracks and splinters more easily.

Line Sweep Tips:

  1. Your optimal LNT line sweep should be done with people standing no more than 6 feet apart. The more people you have, the more territory will be covered quickly.
  2. Orange traffic cones placed at the edges of your LNT Grid work best at defining a visual boundary for your line-sweep team. (They can also be used to visually define a RED area (aka “hot spot”) to come back to focus on.)
  3. Look at areas of your LNT grid in terms of Red (heavy MOOP), Yellow (light MOOP), White (little/no MOOP), just like the MOOP Map.
  4. Think of your first pass as more of an assessment pass. If an area seems RED and becomes too overwhelming, mark the area and focus on it on your second pass. Try to keep the line sweep moving until you’ve assessed the entire grid. Do a second and third pass of your grid until it’s White.

Please read more about Clean-up Tools to make Leaving No Trace even easier.

Lighting Your Art Installation

One of the important design steps in bringing art to the playa is deciding how to light your art, both for safety and to make your art look awesome. 

The playa can be a very dark environment at night. Please be sure that your build site and art are lit EVERY SINGLE NIGHT from when you arrive on playa until you depart, to prevent injury to participants or damage to your art from accidental collisions.

During construction, make sure your art project build site and perimeter, including any rebar or guy wires,  are well-lit at night and neatly organized (lumber stacked, loose materials secured, etc.) for safety.

Keep in mind that, with sunset at around 7:30pm and sunrise at 6:15am, you need to have a power system for your lighting that can run for at least 10.5 hours. Unfortunately, it’s not unusual to see artworks go dark in the early morning hours because their batteries have run out… with many participants still out and about who could collide with it in the dark. Check this site for sunrise and sunset times and please plan accordingly.

Lighting on playa requires daily maintenance, from the day you start building, to ensure that your lights stay lit. This can be undertaken during your daily Matter Out Of Place (MOOP) sweep.

Although our Eyes on Art (EoA) team is there to support you and other artists by patrolling the playa nightly during build week and the event, looking for dark, dangerous, or damaged art, please remember:

  • It is YOUR responsibility to light your art. 
  • If your art is insufficiently lit, EoA will put out perimeter lights or traffic cones (if available) to protect oncoming mutant vehicles, bikes or other vehicles from colliding with it.These lights and cones should be returned to the ARTery in the morning.
  • Your Art Support Services (ASS) squad will connect with you and your team to ensure that you correct your lighting problems before the next nightfall.

General Guidelines for Your Safety Lighting Plan

  • Design safety lighting into your art design, not as an afterthought.
  • Use the 20-second rule. People should be able to see your art 20 seconds before they arrive at it. Since mutant vehicles travel at 5 mph, this means they should be able to see your art from (minimum) 150 feet away.
  • 360 degree lighting is important for safety. As most lighting is directional, ensure no dark spots in your lighting design by putting up spot-lighting or adding perimeter lighting.
  • Light your rebar. This structural part of your project is often overlooked and is one of the biggest causes of injury on the playa. Be sure to mark it and light it up!
  • Light your perimeter. Mark your boundaries to keep mutant vehicles and bikes at a safe distance from your artwork. Perimeter lighting is best when off the ground, so it does not get buried beneath the dust.
  • Enhance your lighting system. Mirrors and other shiny surfaces can reflect your deliberate lighting as well as headlights from oncoming vehicles. Sound objects like wind chimes can also assist in protecting your art from oncoming vehicles both at night and during daytime playa whiteouts.

Lighting DON’Ts

There are many forms of light for you to choose from. Please DON’T use:

  • Chemical lights (“glow sticks”): they don’t last an entire night and are bad for the environment
  • Fuel lanterns (tiki torches, etc): no unattended flames are allowed on the playa

Acceptable Lighting Options

  • LEDs
    • Highly efficient, effective alternative to conventional lighting
    • Compact
    • Available in an array of colors
    • Easy to power and control
    • Perform well in extreme environments
  • Rope lights
    • Available as incandescent bulbs or LEDs
    • Inexpensive solution
    • Can make a great demarcation, point of reference, or general area light
  • Small blinking (bicycle) lights
    • Easy to procure
    • Bright enough to warn on-comers of potential hazards
    • Do not cast much light on the surroundings
    • Should be used as warning lights only
  • Solar lights (garden lights, etc.)
    • For ground-mounted solar lights, consider lifting them up and off the ground to minimize dust accumulation on the integrated solar panel and LED light, which can greatly impair their functionality
    • Can be used for perimeter marking or accents, but not very bright and should not be considered the main source of lighting
    • If not staked down properly, they can be blown away or get stolen
    • For larger solar light installations that require solar panels, see the “Power” section below
  • Neon
    • Highly efficient
    • Consumes little power in operation
    • Can last for years if utilized properly
    • Since it is made of glass, consider placing it out of reach to guard against breakage
  • Electroluminescent (EL) panels or wire
    • Highly portable, flexible, and customizable
    • Available in neon/fluorescent colors, different shapes and diameters
    • Can be powered with simple or sophisticated lighting controllers
  • Incandescent lighting
    • Highly accessible
    • Available in standardized packages
    • Generates light omnidirectionally
    • Consumes a lot more power, produces more heat, and is far more fragile than their updated counterparts
  • Lasers
    • Do not consider using lasers unless you understand the regulations surrounding them.

Power for Your Lights

To the extent possible, please help us reduce the carbon footprint of Black Rock City by considering sustainable sources to power your artwork, such as solar or wind. To learn how to use solar to power your art, check out this Solar 101 course on Hive

(You can learn more about Burning Man Project’s community-wide effort to prioritize sustainability and lessen our environmental impact in our 2030 Environmental Sustainability Roadmap.)

No matter the source of power you’re using, it needs to be checked daily prior to sundown to ensure your art will be lit throughout the night. Take this time to also do a MOOP sweep! If you are having lighting issues your team can’t fix, make sure you get to the ARTery before 6pm closing time.

  • Solar
    • Before acquiring components (solar panels, charge controller, battery, inverter, wiring, connectors), take the time to properly design your system for whatever you may be powering
    • Always build margins into solar systems, be sure to account for no/low solar days, plan for worst-case scenarios and bring along additional components to perform onsite repairs.
    • Solar systems require daily maintenance to remove dust and check connections.
  • Small Batteries
    • Require daily swap-out
  • Car Batteries
    • Should be stored in a cool, dry place
    • Should be secured to ensure they don’t wander off
  • Generator
    • Needs to be secured within a generator box (see the “Baffle Your Box” section of the Keeping Your Art Safe on Playa page
    • Fuel needs to be arranged with ASS

Re-using Your Lighting

Post-event, your lighting system can be used for future years if it is in good condition. If you are going to re-use your lighting system for another year, be sure to check that it is still in working order before returning to playa, and think about ways you can improve it.

If you don’t plan to reuse it, consider donating your unneeded lighting objects to avoid having them end up in a landfill. You can check with Eyes on Art at the ARTery to see if they are accepting donations of small solar lamps, bicycle lights, blinkies and other small lighting accessories.

Art Installation Guidelines


We challenge you to create something that will inspire, engage, question, puzzle, amuse, seduce and otherwise impact the citizens of Black Rock City. Interactive art is our particular obsession. Interactive work convenes society around itself. It generates roles. It provokes actions. It transforms participants into active contributors to a creative process.

Challenges of Building in BRC

Creating art on the playa of Black Rock City is like no canvas or gallery that you may have ever experienced before. The challenges are many. You must consider the extreme physical conditions of the desert, the logistics of transporting building materials and equipment to this remote desert site, and the difficulty of maintaining tools and equipment in a place that has no service grid or ready market of resources. You must also consider the inherently chaotic nature of Black Rock City itself.

All of these challenges are aspects of the medium in which you are working, so plan carefully and be patient. Your creation may not happen in precisely the way you envision it, and that’s okay. The struggle to adapt and to survive is an essential part of this experience and can lead to unexpected discoveries, both about your art and yourself.

Artist’s Responsibilities

Whether you create a theme-related artwork or a vision you’ve had in your head for some time, making a commitment to creating art at Burning Man means taking responsibility for all aspects of that creation. From filling out the art installation registration form, to participating in a dialogue with us, arriving on the playa, protecting your art, and being accountable for cleanup – every aspect of creating art must be taken seriously.

  • Art Safety – Your artwork must be sufficiently secured against high winds and intense weather conditions that often arise on the playa. To learn more about securing your artwork and making it safe for participants, please read building safe structures.
  • Lighting – Your artwork must be sufficiently illuminated at night, including rebar, guy wires and any other part of the installation that could be hit by cyclists or other participants. This includes lighting your build materials while you are in the process of assembling your art. To learn more, read lighting your art
  • Leaving No Trace – When you arrive, the playa is a clean blank canvas. And that is the way you will leave it. Everything you bring to live, create and burn MUST BE REMOVED. Nothing, absolutely nothing, may be left at your art site or camp when you leave. Cleaning up and Leaving No Trace are paramount. Read more in Leave No Trace for Artists and Clean-up Tools
  • Good Standing – Our Criteria for Artist Good Standing outlines expectations for artists to represent the 10 principles through artist and artwork integrity, project implementation, working relationship, and culture and values.  
  • Camping at your art installation on the open playa during your build is not allowed. It creates MOOP and poses logistical challenges amidst the crunch of build week. We encourage you to think instead about how to take care of your crew while camping at your art support camp in the city.

Building Limitations on Playa

Our land use agreement with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) puts certain limitations on what and how we (and you) are allowed to build: 

  • Limits on Digging Holes – Our agreement with the BLM only allows holes that are 1×1 foot wide and 3 feet deep. The reason: larger holes, when refilled, become either high or low spots after the winter rains, causing a hazard to vehicle traffic and creating dunes. We encourage you to seek out options NOT to dig into the playa surface whenever possible. If you do need to dig a hole up to the allowed size, you will need to pack the playa dust back into the hole when dismantling your installation. 
  • No Burying Bases – Our agreement with the BLM does not allow any excavation for the covering of artwork footings and bases. Some artists build platforms to cover their base. Others use guy wires attached to ground anchors instead of a base. Still others buy or rent steel trench plates, lay them on the surface of the playa and attach their artwork to that. You can use accumulated playa dust to cover plates, but you cannot trench or excavate to cover them.
  • Minimize Trenching – Please limit the amount and depth of trenching as much as possible. For electrical lines or short fuel lines we encourage artists to trench by hand, as this causes less disruption to the playa (electrical lines only require a shallow trench…a few inches deep; a trenching machine leaves a gash 8 inches wide and 6 to 12 inches deep).


Large-scale sound art is confined to the 10:00 and 2:00 edges of our city. Art installations on the open playa may contain ambient sound elements that are integral to the installation, but we do not allow DJs, sound systems, DJ booths, or any kind of amplified dance music in the art area. Why not? Electronic music permeates our city, and the open playa is one place that can be relatively free of it. Some installations require a quiet area, and amplified music makes that impossible. With the nature of the open desert, sound carries far and wide very easily. If you are creating an art installation that contains amplified music, it must be located on or in front of the 10:00 or 2:00 edge of our city, and must adhere to our sound policy.


As the open playa is host to more and more art every year, we want to ensure that it remains a place for interactive discovery, rampant creativity, and radically inclusive participation. Providing a stage narrows those participation opportunities down to the more limited dichotomy of performer and spectator.

If you wish to create a stage or performance venue, theme camps often offer these as part of their interactivity and we welcome you to read more about creating or joining a camp. We also have information on performance opportunities.

Mobile Art

There is a fine but important delineation between mutant vehicles and mobile art. If your art piece is mobile, does not carry passengers, and will be parked/stored at a designated spot on the open playa when not in use, you’re welcome to discuss registering it with the Art Department as mobile art.

Conversely, if it does carry passengers, or if you’d be storing it in your camp when not in use, we’d suggest registering as a mutant vehicle.

Art bikes do not need to register with the Art Department and are considered another part of being an amazing and creative participant in Black Rock City.

Temporary Art, Performance, Food Offerings, Etc.

Wanna juggle rubber duckies? Set up a chair and paint portraits of your fellow citizens? Hand out hard-boiled eggs from your bike? Drag out a portable advice booth for a couple hours? No need to register as an art installation!

For temporary offerings such as these, just ensure that you aren’t set up close to an existing art piece, that you don’t leave any structures or objects behind when you depart, and that you Leave No Trace. This can be a nebulous category of interactivity, so please contact us if you have questions.

No Prefabricated Structures

Domes, shipping containers, and tents don’t belong out on the open playa. The open playa is for hand-built and personally-designed artwork rather than prefabricated structures.

If you’re intending to place your art inside a structure on the open playa, please either build a custom structure, or alter your prefab structure in such an incredibly cool way that we won’t even know there’s a prefab structure under there.

No Live Plants

Live plants are not allowed at Burning Man. Please ensure that your installation does not include live plants, or any potentially MOOPy plant matter.


There are special requirements if your artwork incorporates FIRE in any of the following ways:

  • Open Fire: flames created by candles, torches, fire barrels, wood fires, and/or artwork that will itself be engulfed in flame or otherwise burned
  • Flame Effects: flames that are automated, switched, pressurized or have any action other than simply being lit on fire – including projects that use propane or liquid fuels
  • Pyrotechnic Display: explosives, fireworks or projectiles
  • Hazardous Materials Storage: storage of hazardous or combustible materials, including kerosene, white gas, propane, gasoline, pyrotechnics, etc.

If your artwork incorporates fire in any of those ways, it is mandatory that you read and follow our fire safety guidelines. You will also be required to fill out the Fire Safety section of the Art Installation Questionnaire and include your Burn Scar Prevention plan. To be prepared for these questions, please read the following and gather the information you need before you start the questionnaire:

And Finally …

Once you’ve gathered the information you need to describe your artwork, your lighting, your Leave No Trace plan – and your fire safety plan if your artwork incorporates Open Fire, Flame Effects, Pyrotechnics or the storage of hazardous or combustible materials – click below to register your art! Note that the Art Installation Questionnaire is available from late February to late May.

Art Installation Questionnaire

Get in touch with us!

Please reach out to us via email if you have questions:

  • For general inquiries about bringing art to BRC:
  • For questions regarding engineering of your artwork:
  • For open fire art:
  • For flame effects fire art:
  • For pyrotechnics:

Black Rock City Sound Policy

Updated July 2023

The playa is a natural amplifier and it doesn’t take much to produce a large amount of sound. Bass travels multi-directionally and cannot be effectively contained with any structures. This gives “sound” as an art form an unfair advantage over other art forms. Burning Man is dedicated to radical self-expression, andit is also dedicated to creating community. This means we all must find a way to get along with our neighbors. History has led us to this point where we MUST give guidelines on amplification and limit space for this sort of art.

The following guidelines make up our basic sound policy:

  1. Neighbors should talk to one another when sound becomes a problem and try to resolve the issue through direct communication.

    As a community, we need to work together to keep sound at desirable levels. This means that everyone is personally responsible for how they affect everyone else’s experience.

    • If your neighbor believes your sound is too loud, you must work with them to find an acceptable volume. You will need to check in with those you are camped near to find out what other events are planned and work with them to create a schedule. With these actions you should be able to handle all of your own sound issues.
    • If everyone works together there will be no need for Black Rock Rangers to get involved. A community effort is needed to pull this off.
  2. Large-scale sound installations (colloquially known now as Sound Camps) MUST be located in the Large Scale Sound Zone (facing 2:00 and 10:00 avenues). They may express themselves unless community complaints persist. Camps on Esplanade may amplify sound 100’ into the open playa before conversational levels are expected. 
  3. Within the city, sound systems should point internally within the camp producing the sound. Sound amplification should only be loud enough so that people can speak at a conversational level at the border of a neighboring camp or at the center point of a street, whichever is nearest to the source of the sound. 
  4. Conversational levels are defined as 60 decibels (dbA mid-range frequencies) at the border of a neighboring camp or at the center point of a street, whichever is nearest to the source of the sound. Bass level (dbC – low-range frequencies) shall be negotiated with neighbors.
  5. Any complaints about excessive sound will become the concern of the Black Rock Rangers. Concerns about excessive sound can result in:
    • Volume check and mediation between camps
    • Volume check and a final warning on complaints
    • Disabling of equipment
    • Notification of the Placement Team and possible impact to a camp’s standing and future placement

Loud vs. Quiet

Again this year we will have no “loud” and “quiet” sides of the city. These are subjective terms, and they create expectations that may be impossible to meet. These terms create infinite gray areas regarding what is perceived to be “loud” or “quiet,” and this results in difficult negotiations between neighbors.

Large-scale Sound Zone

All large-scale sound systems will be located in the Large-Scale Sound Zones along 2:00 and 10:00. Like all theme camps, these camps will be encouraged to be as creative and interactive as possible. The primary rule is that all speakers MUST be turned away from greater Black Rock City toward the open playa at all times and not point internally into the city. Sound levels for sound systems on the Esplanade will be measured for conversational levels 100’ in the open playa across from the Esplanade. 

Sound Complaints

If you believe your neighbor’s sound is too loud and you are not able to effectively negotiate a solution, you may report this to a Black Rock Ranger station or directly to a Black Rock Ranger. (Please do not mistake a BLM Ranger for our own.) Black Rock Ranger stations are located at 3:00+C, 9:00+C, and Esplanade+5:45. A complaint should contain:

  1. The exact SOURCE of the sound. (Vague reports will result in no action or ineffective action.)
  2. The exact TIME of the disturbance. (Vague reports will result in no action or ineffective action). Please report problems when they happen, although reports filed the next day can be useful with persistent problem camps. We will not take action on issues of taste.

Law Enforcement

Black Rock City and the roads leading to and from the event are patrolled by the following agencies:

  • Pershing County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO)
  • U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
  • Washoe County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO)
  • Nevada State Police (NSP), formerly Nevada Highway Patrol (NHP)
  • Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe Police Department (PLPT)

It is not the stated mission of these agencies to police your lifestyle or inhibit self-expression. They serve the same functions as the police in any city — to protect public safety and respond to violations of the law that are brought to their attention or are in plain view.

We Want Your Feedback About Law Enforcement

Did you have any interaction with law enforcement at Burning Man? Was it a positive experience? Was it a negative experience? Whether you were cited or not, we want your feedback so that we can further improve relations between law enforcement and our participants.

Please fill out our online Law Enforcement Feedback form as soon as possible after your interaction, so you can record all the details while they’re still fresh in your mind. You may also download a PDF of the form and return it to us during the Black Rock City event at Ranger HQ or a Ranger Outpost. Thank you for your help!

Please note: Black Rock Rangers are participants serving as non-confrontational community mediators. They are not law enforcement officers.

Private Security in Black Rock City

As volunteers, Black Rock Rangers do not typically engage in physical confrontations with participants. Instead, Rangers rely on tools like education, negotiation, and an appeal to the 10 Principles to resolve conflict. Each year, there are a few situations involving participants behaving aggressively that are beyond the scope of Ranger responsibilities before law enforcement is on scene, or might benefit from proactively deploying a team that can act if a situation escalates.

Burning Man Project contracts with High Rock Security to provide support and assistance to Black Rock Rangers in these circumstances. We believe that having this option for a small number of unique cases will benefit Rangers, participants, and law enforcement.

The High Rock Security team will respond to incidents when dispatched by Ranger leadership. Like Rangers, they will escalate any serious issues immediately to law enforcement as needed. They will be wearing black “High Rock Security” shirts, clearly distinguishable from Rangers and law enforcement.

You may know High Rock Security from their work at a number of official Burning Man events (like San Francisco Decompression and the Artumnal Gathering) and events adjacent to Burning Man (e.g., Lightning in a Bottle, Symbiosis). They work alongside Rangers at some of these gatherings and approach security in a manner inspired by Black Rock Rangers, preferring de-escalation techniques.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is this the “third-party private security” that BLM discusses as a potential mitigation in their 2019 Environmental Impact Statement?

No. This is completely unrelated to BLM’s Environmental Impact Statement or to any requirements from BLM. Our collaboration with High Rock Security is not the security force proposed by BLM to search vehicles and participants at the Gate. High Rock Security will not be searching vehicles at the Gate.

Why is this happening?

Black Rock City staff have dealt with a small number of issues over the years where individuals displayed physically aggressive behavior, demonstrated the potential to harm themselves or others, or otherwise continued to behave badly when asked by Rangers or other Burning Man staff to stop. While we rely on law enforcement for support when things get out of hand, there are cases where it would be helpful to have a team under our management that can monitor a situation before it rises to law enforcement action or while we are waiting for law enforcement, so as to ensure safety if things escalate before law enforcement arrives.

What is High Rock Security’s intended role at the event?

To assist our Black Rock Rangers and Black Rock City staff in situations that might need a higher level of de-escalation or intervention that volunteer Rangers are not prepared to provide, but don’t rise to the level of requiring law enforcement involvement.

Does this mean more or less law enforcement at the event?

Neither. High Rock Security does not remove the need for law enforcement in Black Rock City. They are here to serve BRC needs and to support our volunteer Black Rock Rangers.

Will High Rock staff be armed? Will they carry guns? Tasers? Batons? Pepper spray?

High Rock staff will not be armed with any weapons while in Black Rock City.

What will they be wearing? How will we know who they are?

They will be wearing black “High Rock Security” shirts, clearly distinguishable from Rangers and law enforcement. Due to the very small size of the team and the specific nature of their work, the vast majority of participants will not interact with, or even notice, the High Rock team in Black Rock City.

What is High Rock Security’s history?

High Rock Security was founded in 2002 by members of Burning Man’s Black Rock Rangers and Gate teams to provide a non-aggressive style of security to events. Their clients include San Francisco Decompression, Burning Man regional events, Lightning in a Bottle, Symbiosis, and Joshua Tree Music Festival. Much of High Rock Security’s staff consists of people who have been Burning Man Project staff and volunteers, previously involved with Black Rock Rangers, Gate, DPW, Cafe, and other departments.

How will High Rock Security interact with Black Rock Rangers?

High Rock staff will work alongside Rangers and under the direction of Ranger management. High Rock staff will be dispatched by the Black Rock Rangers as an additional resource when appropriate.

Will High Rock Security patrol BRC?

You may see High Rock staff moving about in Black Rock City. While their primary mission is to respond as needed when called upon by Black Rock Rangers to assist, they are available to help participants and can contact Rangers as appropriate. 

How many of them will there be?

There will typically be between one and four pairs of agents on duty at a time.

If you can use private security in Black Rock City, why have BLM or Pershing County law enforcement patrolling the event? Why not do what EDC, Coachella and Bonnaroo do—use private security and call in law enforcement only when needed?

Law enforcement provides important services in Black Rock City that cannot be replaced by private security. Additionally, Black Rock City is on public lands and our permit requires a law enforcement presence.

Burning Man Information Radio

Burning Man Information Radio (94.5 FM) is your nexus for essential information on the playa. Check BMIR for late-breaking event announcements and a melange of music. In the event of an on-site emergency, tune into BMIR for rumor-free updates and advisories to surf the storm to a sane conclusion.

BMIR’s daily programming reflects the needs of the community pragmatic, philosophical, and participatory.

Vital Community Announcements

Help avoid porta-potty meltdown and other cataclysmic catastrophes by checking in daily.

Diverse Perspectives

Listen to artists, organizers, and citizens of Black Rock City as they discuss what inspires them to their extremes of participation.

Event Announcements

Come down to BMIR (Center Camp between Ranger HQ and Earth Guardians) from 12-5pm each day to record event and camp announcements. Or relate your encounters with radical acts of gifting on-air to the city at large.

Weather Updates

When you need to know whether the weather will white-out your fluorescent green Mirabou boa, tune us in. 94.5 BMIR: It’s not just a radio station; it’s a radio station wired to connect YOU — a bunch of radical, celebratory self-expressionists living in the middle of the desert for seven days, creating the single greatest event known to humankind.

BMIR welcomes your participation. Please send comments and suggestions to We are thrilled to receive PSAs or interviews from the community at large.

How to Listen to BMIR on your Computer or Smartphone

*Please note – BMIR can be streamed live from approximately Thursday pre-event through Tuesday post event.

On a PC or Mac, you can just go to our website, and the built in Flowplayer should launch by itself (you can also just pause that and click on the “Listen Now” link, which should launch BMIR in your media player of choice).

BMIR also has its very own iPhone app and Android player, so you can listen to BMIR while you drive to the playa (provided you have cell coverage).

BMIR is also available commercial free on iHeart Radio (all platforms) by special arrangement with our friends at iHeart Media. You can listen from a PC or Mac by going to their website and searching for BMIR or Burning Man. Their app is available for all mobile platforms. Please note that iHeart Radio is not available outside the US, so if you are overseas and listening, listen directly from the BMIR webpage or use BMIR’s own Android or iPhone app.

Please also note that the iHeart stream is at a lower bitrate than the BMIR webpage, Android and iPhone apps, so it’s easier on your data usage if you are listening on a mobile device.

We can also be found on the TuneIn Radio app and web page as well as the Streema web page.

Check out the BMIR Facebook page for updates or more info.

Thanks for listening!

Recycle Camp

Recycling is very important to Black Rock City (and every city, really). Naturally, there is a theme camp dedicated to this key component of modern waste reduction.

Recycle Camp – Our Mission

  • Collect, Crush and Recycle as many aluminum cans as possible in a week.
  • Encourage the use of aluminum on the playa.
  • Encourage reusable water/beverage containers vs. the single serving plastic bottle.
  • Practice and Promote the 7 Principles of ‘Leave No Trace’.
  • Teach the seething masses the 6 Noble Tenets of Waste Reduction:
  1. The 6 R’s: Respect – Rethink – Reduce – Reuse – Recycle – Restore
  2. Prepare, leave sorry-ass packaging at home
  3. Sort your recyclables and trash before you discard them!
  4. Never let it hit the ground
  5. Pack It In, Pack It Out
  6. Create! Supposed “garbage” can be transformed into beautiful works of art!

Recycle Camp is located in Center Camp. During the event, we collect as many aluminum cans as possible. Recycle Camp is run completely by volunteers who live to spread the Recycle Camp mantra to all participants, “Show us your Cans!” Volunteers meander through the city every day riding one of our new, improved and patented tandem bicycle powered Recycle-Trucks. The trucks make it possible to collect 10 times as many cans in each trip as the old shopping cart version. We encourage everyone to come by and help with the efforts. We need people to take them out during the event, spreading the word about Recycle Camp and collecting cans. Join us in recruiting new help throughout the day. Crush some cans. Relax, have a cold beverage and enjoy the camp.

Recycle Camp encourages you to help us collect aluminum cans using your own bike and your own basket. If you wish to help while driving your crazy art car, remember to register with the DMV. All participants may bring their aluminum cans to Recycle Camp, Monday through Sunday 9am to 5pm. While there, you will help us crush your cans and join us in creating recycled art or relax and have a beverage and learn about recycling and sustainability.

Recycle Camp does not collect aluminum foil, glass, plastic, tin, paper, cardboard or any garbage. In fact, we discourage bringing plastic and glass to the playa altogether and we get really mad when people leave us their garbage. Accomplishing our recycling goals depends on reducing the waste stream at the source — this starts with you!!! So please, follow these simple steps, reduce what you bring, separate your aluminum cans and bring them to recycle Camp!!! While you’re at it go ahead and separate out all your recyclables from your garbage that you’re packing out. Each should be dealt with separately.

Recycle Camp wants your cans! Show us your cans! Bring them to us! Ride the “Blue/Duck”, Recycle Camp’s State-Of-The-Art bicycle powered can crushing machine.

Some interesting facts about aluminum and aluminum recycling.

Aluminum is an incredibly energy-rich material. Usually its ore is derived from bauxite, though it can be derived from other sources but at a higher price. We have heard that even the playa could be mined for aluminum — fortunately for us, this would not be cost-effective.

  • Discovered in the 1820s, aluminum is the most abundant metal on earth.
  • In 1954, Olympia, Washington is the first place to offer a deposit on aluminum cans.
  • The U.S. Aluminum Industry begins recycling in 1968, the same year was born.
  • In 1972, 24,000 metric tons of aluminum used beverage containers (UBCs) were recycled. In 1998, the amount increased to over 879,000 metric tons.
  • In 1972, it took about 22 empty, aluminum cans to weigh one pound. Due to advanced technology to use less material and increase durability of aluminum cans, since 2002 it takes about 32 empty aluminum cans to weigh one pound.
  • Nearly 75% of all aluminum ever produced is still in use today.
  • Nearly 60% of the aluminum cans produced are recycled.
  • Every new aluminum can contains more than 50% post consumer recycled aluminum.
  • Every minute of every day, an average of 120,000 aluminum cans are recycled.
  • A used aluminum can will be recycled and back on the grocery shelf as a new can, in as little as 60 days. That’s closed loop recycling at its finest!
  • It takes 90% less energy to manufacture an aluminum can from recycled aluminum.
  • Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to listen to a full album on an iPhone.
  • In 2005, 54 billion cans were recycled saving energy equivalent to 15 million barrels of crude oil – America’s entire gas consumption for one day.
  • Tossing away one aluminum can wastes as much energy as pouring out half of that can’s volume of gasoline.
  • Even though aluminum is the most valuable recyclable material, aluminum cans still make it to the landfill. Americans throw away nearly $1 billion worth of aluminum cans each year.
  • Americans throw away enough aluminum every month to rebuild our entire commercial air fleet.

One reason aluminum is so widely recycled is that the energy required to recycle it is only a tiny fraction of the energy required to obtain it from ore. Every time you recycle 30 aluminum cans, you have saved the equivalent energy of a gallon of gasoline. In 2019 we collected over 300,000 cans. That’s the equivalent of over 10,000 gallons of gasoline. The market value of those cans was only around $3,000.00, but that is a lot to the Gerlach School.

Recycle Camp History

Recycle Camp was born out of a red-hot desire to curb the large clean-up effort on the playa. During their first visit to Black Rock City in 1995, two participants, Simon and Diane, were hanging around during clean up and asked the inevitable question, “Why isn’t there any recycling around here?”

An old-timer just looked at them and smiled as he said, “If you want to see recycling here, then why don’t you volunteer to do it yourself?” They set out that very day to pull aluminum cans out of a pile. By the end of the day they had made a serious dent in the pile, and felt they had actually made a dent in what participants had left behind. There was no Org.

Two years later, Simon aka Cap’n Crush and Diane aka Agent Orange, came equipped with one shopping cart vehicle. They managed to collect a few hundred cans the night of the opera and the burn, and later during clean up met Harley Bierman-Dubois, Burning Man’s Human Resources Amazon. Harley was beginning to build the Community Services Department, she knew this would be a good addition. Recycle Camp was born in November 1997, and in Black Rock City 1998, became an official Burning Man Theme Camp. Their methods were crude yet effective and they collected some 20,000 cans that year. 

Recycle Camp joined forces with the Earth Guardians in 1999 to further the efforts of educating Black Rock citizens to Leave No Trace. Over 75,000 cans were collected. The cans were delivered to the Gerlach School Principal and the money generated went to the Gerlach School.

Recycle Camp was back in full force in 2000 and set an amazing goal to reach 200,000 cans. We actually collected over 100,000 cans that year, our best effort yet.

In 2001, with seven new and returning Volunteers, we collected over 100,000 cans and helped to fund student activities at the Gerlach School once again.

In 2002, Recycle Camp came under new management. Mr. Blue, a first time volunteer in 2001, took the lead role. With the guidance of Cap’n Crush and the help of a record number of Recyclonauts, 100,000+ cans were collected, crushed, bagged and delivered to Gerlach to be recycled.

In 2003, Recycle Camp took on a new look. The tents were replaced with geodesic domes, one for the kitchen and another for a chill space. We took responsibility for our own shade structure/work space and built an amazing A-Frame structure that was a welcome addition to Center Camp. We had a fantastic group of core Recyclonauts and managed to deliver another 100,000+ cans to Gerlach.

From 2004 to today Recycle Camp continues to be a sustainability leader in Black Rock City, energized by the same participant/volunteer driven hard work that has proven year after year to be able to wrangle a field of burlap bags, to a sea of super sacks, to a dumpster full, make that 4, of aluminum cans from the citizens and get them recycled. Since the beginning, Recycle Camp has collected, crushed and recycled over 3 million cans. We’re going to hit 4 million soon, you can bet on that. What? It’s OK, we’re in Nevada.

Questions or comments? Or if you would like to volunteer, email us at