Quite often I work with local councils at larger scale events because they are the kind of clients who need a fire show. I’m putting together this page because while a lot has been written on the subject of fire safety for dancers and other performers much of it is not for Australia.
Although in Australia rules and procedures will vary from state to state and even from council to council – it’s important to understand the framework for risk management. I’m based in NSW so I have worked with councils such as Wollongong, Maitland, Newcastle and Lake Macquarie.
The basics of fire safety ( in a nutshell)
Weather – ” rain plan “
Last summer was terrible every second weekend was a total fire ban, and with such a massive bushfire season many fire gigs were either canceled or rearranged.
It’s good to have a plan right? I often refer to this as my “rain plan”
because often gigs may have to move inside if it’s raining or too windy.
Negotiate this with your client before the gig.
My standby plan is I have an LED set that I’ll do instead of often for a discounted price or for extra time.
Your prop will really dictate how much space you need. Clearly, if you’re a rope darter you are going to need a larger space than someone who does fire breathing. As I’m a dancer I like a nice healthy space to move around. Also because I tend to “throw my props in the air like I just don’t care” I like a good safety margin between me and my audience.
Ceiling height and obstacles
So I poi and my fire fans are large, from full extension from my hand the flames may reach up quite high especially when I first light up.
it’s well worth considering ceiling height if you not in an open space, overhanging trees might look loverly but hey no one wants to set fire to there stage right?
Ideally, you want nice high ceilings free from: bunting, decorations and string lights
Personally I loath bunting – that festive stuff people hang about ..often made from either paper (think whooossh..) or worse plastic.
Why I hate bunting!
Heres a photo of a gig I should have said no to see the bunting, I basicaly had to do floor work so it didn’t melt on me. But we all learn from our mistakes. If you don’t feel safe call it.
Other performance space hazards to watch out for – broken glass, uneven ground, wet surfaces.
So this one a weird one – some will require you to have a demarcation of the space between you and the audience – I like a reflective rope for this it’s cheap and easy to have in your kit. I’ve also seen people use LED ropes for this if you want fancy.
I do however feel it’s not really going to stop children, drunk folk or other people /animals from waltzing into your fire ground. I have on occasion been grateful that some bigger shows have big steel fences to protect everyone involved.
Clear put out, lighting up and fueling zones.
& don’t have them together.. honestly it’s not that hard
This is what I was taught, its sensible. Have your fueling station well away from where you light your prop. Have a put out station somewhere else. (I might make a different post about my favorite practices for all three stations )
this works for larger shows with multiple performers – you can have a direction of coming on and going off so no one runs into another performer with a firey prop.
Heres what I always carry
- Fire extinguisher
- Fire blanket
- First aid kit
- MSDS for my fuel (material safety data sheet) -it’s important you know your fuel
- Towel/hessian ( and a bucket I usually soak it at venues)
Have a safety marshal
So, having a safety marshal you have an existing relationship with and trust is important. If your safety marshal is new then invest some time into working with them or train them up – more safety marshals in our community is not a bad thing.
A marshal can intercept that drunk, a marshal can tell if you lit your hair on fire ( it happened to a friend) a marshal can help if your equipment malfunctions or something goes horribly horribly wrong.
I won’t perform without one, that’s my baseline. though it’s not a requirement it can be another performer if you negotiate to take terns but ideally, your marshal has only one thing to worry about and that’s safety.
Check your gear personally – make sure it’s in good repair, cut frayed kevlar, do the maintenance, enough said.
Personal protective equipment
I use gloves, kevlar sleeves and a range of other PPE ( disposable gloves for fuel additives)
This one’s the worst. I cringe when I see dancers in polyester I don’t care how “good” you think you are. I’ve seen some of our best dancers have accidents some lose there lives your not better your just been lucky so far, luck runs out.
Though no material is 100% fire safe you can reduce risks by not wearing polyester and plastic stuff.
Cotton, wool, leather, Nomex – all great – there’s a good deal of stuff out there on costume already and I promise to make some detailed costume posts later.