You've been spinning fire in your backyard for years and it's never been a problem. You've thought about pulling a fire permit, but why? It's faster, easier, and cheaper to renegade, right? You tell yourself it's a radical form of self expression and continue on your way. Then one day you go to the same place you've practiced a thousand times before, only this time law enforcement is on the scene. If you're lucky, they ask you to shut it down and go home. If you're not so lucky (as some performers can attest to) they slap you with citations, heavy fines, and tell you not to spin fire there again. Some fire performers are even getting hauled off to jail to face serious charges. What on earth is going on here?
Incidents like these are happening across the country. As the fire community continues to grow, it inevitably draws more attention to itself. Because this art form carries inherent risks (part of the reason why fire performance is so alluring) we suddenly find ourselves under governmental scrutiny. As experienced fire performers, we've all developed our own personal set of procedures and practices that ensure safety and limit liability. Yet all it would take is one bad judgment call - one mistake resulting in tragedy - to stop the fire scene in its tracks and shut us all down.
With the increasing popularity of fire performance, one question becomes alarmingly clear:
How do we, as a community, band together to ensure the survival of this Industry?
One community tackled this situation head on - and not necessarily by choice. In Los Angeles, State and Local Fire Officials addressed the fire performance community and made it clear that due to increasing numbers, their days of flying below the radar were over. They suggested that the fire community figure out a way to govern itself before they stepped in and did it for us, as they did for the pyrotechnic community. In response, a large cross-section of the Los Angeles fire community banded together to create a fire safety program that worked for all of us. The result: a set of comprehensive safety guidelines, permit procedures, and checklists which the State Fire Marshal's office has approved for use throughout the State of California.
As such, the United Fire Artists (UFA), a non-profit organization, was born.
Over the last few years, the UFA has developed a professional working relationship with its city, county and state fire officials, which meet on a quarterly basis to discuss fire safety issues and brainstorm about possible solutions. Together, we continue to distribute the UFA's safety guidelines and procedures in an effort to educate both Fire Marshals about the art of fire performance, as well as fire performers about the importance of proper fire safety protocols. These guidelines and procedures were developed in an effort to determine baseline considerations for safety during any fire performance regardless of individual style. Accounting for freedom is paramount in such a radically expressive community.
We continue to reach out with the help of fire officials, yet we still face many challenges ahead of us. And we are not alone. We have been contacted by fire communities in other cities who are facing the same types of challenges. One of these challenges is trying to establish legitimate practice spaces.
Currently, UFA's focus is not just on educating fire departments in various regions about the fire performance industry, but also helping endangered fire performance communities work together to legally establish themselves while creating a communication channel where these communities can stay informed and work together to protect their art form. We are also developing a Fire Performer Safety Training Program which certifies the participant as a knowledgeable and capable fire safety in an effort to identify trained individuals more readily to the Authorities having Jurisdiction (AHJ).
Working together to create a safer environment today, for tomorrow's spinners…