Keep the Burning in Burning Man! Volunteer for a Burn Perimeter

Do you like fire?

Do you like Burning Man?

Do you want to help keep the burning in Burning Man?

Then you have to love Burn Perimeters!

For all the brilliant works of art that go up in blazes of glory, there’s a catch: Someone still needs to have their head on straight to ensure the safety of said glory. Who would want to do such a thing? Well, I would. Read on to see if you would, too.

When I was introduced to the ethos of Burning Man, I was told participation was welcomed and encouraged. Since my first stumble into the dust, I knew: I couldn’t just go to Black Rock City, I needed to build it, to live it, and to support its citizens in all their wild endeavors. Once you’ve commandeered a Spanish galleon, built a Temple for your fallen friends, or tamed a great sea creature, there’s little chance of going back.

Over the years, my addiction grew, and whenever I was threatened with too much down time, I’d wander off to other projects and build sites to offer my hands and help. This happens to some of us out in Black Rock City; we really don’t know how to sit idle, and we love it.

When offering help to build crews as they scramble to make their magic happen, you need to read between the lines. When you ask if they need help, and they reply…

“OH DEAR GOD or satan, or somebody, NOW WE NEED TO BURN THIS on NO SLEEP and WHERE’S THE CHAINSAW?! ohmy$*%$goshzzzzzzzzz…….OH NO. WE’RE FINE!”

You need to translate that to: “Of course I need help, but I am close to the edge and do not even know how to tell you about the help I need!”

The Black Rock Lighthouse Service burns (Photo by Jesse Rather Photography)

The Artists Need You!

Over the years helping artists with Burn Perimeters, I have formed a very strong opinion.

The Burn Perimeter for an art piece should never be the responsibility of its creators and builders. They should not have to stand with their backs to the fire waiting to keep bikes and people out of the perimeter. The burn is their celebration, their release, their moment of catharsis and camaraderie and relief.  They should revel in it.

This story should illustrate why:

In 2016, my right hand man and fellow burnaholic Andrés and I rolled out to our friends at Black Rock Lighthouse Service and arrived just as the crew had been hit with stressful news. The leader of their Burn Perimeter Team needed to leave the city suddenly and unexpectedly… on the day of their burn. Instinctually I said, “No worries, I got it!” The team leads blinked. “Yep, really! And ah, Andrés will lead it with me.” (Thanks buddy).

Andrés and I met with the leads of the project and the official Burn Perimeter Crew of BRC and explained our willingness to step in and take over for the Lighthouse crew. Word of mouth is a powerful thing out on playa, and participants’ desire to support the art even more

so. That night, despite some fierce whiteouts and the general confusion of last-minute changes, we were overjoyed as more and more volunteers appeared out of the dust.

After the burn, the Lighthouse crew showered us with gratitude yet again, and a few of those who had been hesitant to give up control thanked me pointedly. Many participants who had come for the burn thanked and high-fived me and showed their thanks through the looks on their faces.

Catacomb of Veils burning (Photo by Jamen Percy)

You on Board Yet? Join a Burn Perimeter Team!

After this experience, it was brought to my attention that some of the great minds of Burning Man would like to organize a more formal Burn Perimeter Support Team, a premeditated collective of volunteers at the ready, to ensure no art project feels the pressure and stress of holding a perimeter with their last ounce of strength again. Naturally I jumped on board and am thrilled to help this come to life.

If you would like to help with a Burn Perimeter at Burning Man:

Begin by creating a new Burner Profile or logging into your existing one.

Then sign up there to volunteer and tick off the Burn Perimeter Support Team.

Once we hear from you, an email will be sent in a week or two with more information.

Thanks for helping keep the burning in Burning Man.


Top photo: Temple of Grace by David Best (Photo by Zipporah Lomax)

About the author: Kelsey Owens

Kelsey Owens

Kelsey, known as Trouble on playa, is a Rope Access Technician and general enthusiast of all things up-in-the-air and/or combustible. On playa since 2011, she fell hard for the big art scene and helped in the creation of the Pier and La Llorona, the Ichthyosaur, Embrace, the Temple of Promise, and the Space Whale. She is happiest in a climbing harness, behind the wheel of a VR, or with a fistful of matches.

3 Comments on “Keep the Burning in Burning Man! Volunteer for a Burn Perimeter

  • doxie says:

    Trouble!!..so nice to read your blog…. you nailed it!
    Just as you and Andres did on playa at the 11th hour on Saturday..you two were amazing ..so wide-eyed and ‘we got this’! It was a pleasure working with you and helping this project burn safely.

    Look forward to working with you again this year!

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    • Ruben Rodziewicz says:

      I wish I could participate with a number of your volunteer functions!
      I have a super variety of qualifications and was seriously contemplating the effort of helping this years burn but came up short not realizing there’s problems with supply and demand with tickets available.
      I have participated in many volunteer functions in the past, I guess this one has to sit out. Let me know if can still participate… I would love to do so.

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  • Orange Mike says:

    The culture of Perimeter you describe is real, both in knowledge and community. I can think of at least 5 folks in Texas who specialize this way, and love that dynamic you describe – lifting the art up from fatigue and stress into a glorious burn that happens to be safe. As an artist I’m humbled by it and I’ll promote this!

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