by Penny Stone
The list of things you can do at Burning Man is as long as your imagination — it’s an experience of a lifetime. And nothing sucks more than having your Burn cut short.
I’m Penny Stone, Fire Chief of your Burning Man Volunteer Fire Department. We are 100 firefighters strong, from all over the world, and probably one of the most eclectic fire departments you’ll ever hopefully never have to call. While we specialize in fire, we also have rescue and hazmat teams.
I’ve got some tips to keep you safe and keep your Burn rolling. Here goes…
Baffling Your Generator
I was riding through the Black Rock City streets last year when I saw smoke billowing out of the back of a pickup truck. Turns out a participant had wrapped his generator (in the truck bed) with a foam mattress to decrease the noise — and then he put a plastic dog kennel over it to hold everything in place.
I dragged the smoking mess onto the playa and extinguished it. The owner came out of his tent, smiled and said “I was just trying to make it less noisy.”
There are plenty of ways to baffle your generator safely, like this for example.
Make sure generators have proper clearance from flammable objects (ahem, including foam mattresses).
Overfilling Your RV’s Propane Tanks
Let’s say you rent an RV. The RV propane tank you filled in a cooler place is now at a higher altitude and temperature, and that propane you’re smelling is it off-gassing. You know what propane smells like? You’ll want to in case it happens to you.
Tell the person filling your propane tank that you’re going to Burning Man (or at least “the desert”). A gas leak detector would be a good idea, too.
Electrical Sanity in Your RV
True story: In 2012, Black Rock Volunteer Fire Department responded to an RV that these guys had bought, the electrical system for which wasn’t designed for the demand they put on it. The electrical lines under the floorboards overheated and started a fire that engulfed the RV. Fortunately, everyone got out in time.
Make sure a qualified electrician and mechanic inspects your RV before purchasing. AND MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A WORKING FIRE EXTINGUISHER OR TWO!!!
Fire in Your Camp
Burn barrels and flame effects are wonderful to chill around at night. But remember they need adequate clearance, and they must always be attended! It only takes a stray spark to set your neighborhood on fire, quickly.
Designate someone as the Pulse of Fire in your camp. Pay attention to wind speed, wind direction and the height of your flame, and make sure you don’t overload your burn barrel (it happens a lot).
AND MAKE SURE THERE IS A FIRE EXTINGUISHER IN A VISIBLE AND ACCESSIBLE PLACE AND ALL YOUR CAMPMATES KNOW WHERE IT IS. A 4×4” post painted red and placed in a five gallon bucket with sand or cement makes a great place to mount an extinguisher.
Questions? We’re Here to Help!
If you have questions about how to set up a fire plan for your camp or village please feel free to contact us at fuel here: fuel (at) burningman.org. We can help with questions on fire safety, fuel storage and dispensing, fires in camp and flame effects. We’re here to make your burn FABULOUS. Besides, WE BURN MORE THAN YOU.