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
- 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)
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
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:
- 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:
- 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.
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 email@example.com.
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.
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:
- All hazard mitigations listed above have been completed to the satisfaction of the FAST Lead, and
- No part of the artwork stands more than 7 feet higher than the playa.
- 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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Open Fire: email@example.com
Flame Effects: firstname.lastname@example.org
Registration and Approval
Read all about how to register your project and get it approved.