BRC Fire Department Says: Don’t Be Like These Bozos

by Penny Stone

(Photo by aip2000)

(Photo by aip2000)

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

fireexBurn 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 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.

Download a handy, printable fuel safety document (PDF – 3MB)

14 Comments on “BRC Fire Department Says: Don’t Be Like These Bozos

  • Cindy says:

    Last year I put a box of matches up my vagina then swallowed bleach, but nothing happened. What am I doing wrong?

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    • Drugs&Alcohol says:

      Were they strike-anywhere matches? If they weren’t strike-anywhere, it’ll never work.

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    • Marin says:


      Search Youtube for how to build a ‘rocket stove’ out of bricks. It’s technically not open flame so you can have one burning in camp during the event. It’s great for heat on cold nights, and will also ignite the your box of matches if you sit on it for about an hour. The rocket stove is also a great way of getting rid of your excess wood and other materials that you’d rather not put into Reno’s landfill areas.

      Good luck. And try to only use bleach for its intended purposes. Burn safe!

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    • Jim Strand says:

      You didn’t get pregnant, did you? I’d say it worked.
      Peace, Olskoo

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  • Captain Danger says:

    True story as well. An ember carried by the wind from the RV fire in 2012 mentioned here caught our Mutant Vehicle, Beau Le Phant the pink elephant on fire at 7/A, blocks from the fire. Thanks to our neighbors the temple crew, they had a pallet of fire extinguishers and they put it out. It was the first time in our theme camps history we realized the potential for fire in BRC to get out if control.

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    • Lady says:

      I know they call it Burning Man, but it’s time to realize that fire is super dangerous. All these art cars loaded with propane and crews that are half drunk, it’s only a matter of time before someone is lit on fire and dies, or many people.

      I support the ban on fire at Burning Man. There are many other ways we can ‘burn’ – in our hearts and souls. We can burn in our friendships and love for one another. Please, we need to ban fire at the event before things end in tears.

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      • Corvus says:

        Read the back of your ticket. When you push the envelope sometimes you punch through. The trick is to minimize the harm done when it happens, not eliminate all chance of harm.

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      • Lady says:

        >When you push the envelope sometimes you punch through.

        Good advice, but I stopped using regular mail a long time ago.

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  • FireKing says:

    Another Fire Tip: Don’t release Chinese Lanters (paper lanterns with a candle or other source of flame that causes the lantern to ride and float away).

    Why not?

    -They are MOOP. It’s going to land somewhere, and it probably won’t be a trash can.
    -They are on fire and uncontrolled. If the paper tears or the lantern gets knocked down by a gust of wind somewhere else, then you’ve just helped set Black Rock City on fire.
    -They’re illegal. If BLM catches you sending one up in the air, it’s a sizable ticket and a reason for them to further intrude on your burn.

    Sure, they’re pretty. No one cares. Don’t do it.

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  • Youlo says:

    The real question is, what do we really know about fire? Personally, I don’t trust it, and I think it’s highly overrated.

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    • See-er says:

      I’m a Wiccan and I can tell you that fire doesn’t actually exist in this dimension. Fire is a portal to the 5th dimension. Few people understand this. No one knows what fire is, that’s why it’s attributed to Satan. I think the organizers of Burning Man should look into this. In the dimension we all live in, fire is our enemy and our enemies can only be destroyed. We need to fight the power. I’m also a Vegan.

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      • stubby says:

        So that’s why when I ate too many geltabs at that drum circle on San Diego, I actually believed the fIre pit was a portal to another dimension. It was a pallet-sized square pit burned down to hot coals. I thought that’s what we were all there for. I jumped in feet first, luckily my leather boots protected my feet, and proceeded to have an out of body experience fIre several hours.

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  • King David says:

    True Story: Our camp rents and brings out our own Porta-Potties every year. One year one of my campmates left a scented candle burning in his to get rid of the smell. The candle burned down and lit the porta-potty on fire. This was on Burn night so almost everyone was out of the camp, but luckily a passerby noticed and alerted the only two campmates still at camp (who were sleeping at the time), they were able to quickly put it out.

    DON’T LEAVE CANDLES BURNING IN PORTA POTTIES PEOPLE!!! ALSO DON’T SMOKE IN PORTA POTTIES! There is a reason why airlines are so anal about you not smoking in the airplane lavatory. That blue shit is HIGHLY flammable.

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  • Seismic says:

    Thank you for this informative article, I learned a lot. There are many things about fire that most people don’t understand. For example, why can I blow out a candle but I can’t blow out a camp fire? Some things are not meant for full understanding, and it’s the mystery that makes them special. We’ll never understand the nature of fire and what it does and where it comes from. That’s what makes it so special.

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