NAFAA Performer Safety Guidelines. (Revision 2.1)
The purpose of this document is to provide a minimum set of voluntary fire performer
safety guidelines that attends to the concerns of public health and safety as
applied to the performing fire arts. This document is meant to supplement and
clarify the NFPA 160 standards involving 'Group I' devices. It is not intended
to supplant local fire codes, all diligence should be used to discover the
local codes for open flame performance.
NAFAA artists should act in a professional manner. They should be capable,
well rehearsed, and safe each time they light up.
- Performers should not attempt performance under the influence of any judgment
or reaction impairing substance.
- Performers should be in good physical health, with no temporary or permanent
debilitating health issue that could interfere with the planned routine.
- Every practice should be performed where the artist can be reasonably
assured of minimal traffic.
- Unlit practice tools should have some visible marking on them to insure
others do not accidentally run into the tools during use.
- Before lighting up, the performer should be ready to spin the tool for
it's full duration. At least three successive practices without operational
problems should be performed before a lit routine is attempted.
- When lit, no new moves should be attempted. If the flame lasts longer
than anticipated, a spotter should assist with dousing the wicks.
- Each performance should be practiced lit several times to verify duration
and capability before a performance is attempted.
II) Safety Personnel
- Regular performance costumes should be made of Flame Retardant or High
- If not, each part of the costume should be checked for flammability, and
flame retarded if possible.
- Before the performance, the performer should practice lit in the expected
costume several times to insure safety.
Each performance and lit practice should have at least one spotter ready
to meet fire emergency needs, with additional spotters and guards as needed.
- Guards provide audience containment duties, keeping audience away from
performance area, fuel station, and spinout zones.
- Fire safety training is beneficial with guards, but not required.
C) First aid training
- Spotters are in charge of onstage and back stage fire safety including
emergent and intentional wick extinguishing.
- Spotters should be well aware of the various aspects of fire performance
and familiar with the routine to be performed.
- Spotters should be trained in flame extinguishing, response times, untangling
equipment and audience control.
- When needed, the spotter responds to the audience needs, the venue's needs,
then the performer's needs, in that order.
- All spotters should have at least rudimentary first aid training, particularly
- At least one spotter should have strong first aid or medical training.
- For particularly large performances, the venue should provide on-call
ambulance or medical team for the event who should be aware of the duration
of the performance.
NAFAA performers should use well-maintained tools. Not only should they be
constructed to prevent uncontrolled wicks, they should be regularly tested
to insure capability.
- Intentional extinguishing can be managed with a safety towel of damp
cloth, flame treated cloth, or high heat material.
- Spotters should be dressed with the same care as a performer and should have a safety towel at all times.
- Safety personnel should be equipped with all fire safety devices they have
been trained to manage. Ideally, all spotters and guards should have an
extinguisher available to them.
A) Wick Attachment
B) Handle Attachment
- Wicks should be attached to the fire tool via some hard limiting method.
Wire, screws or bolts should be run through the wick and device. Glues and
friction should not be the primary method of wick attachment for any swinging
- Wicks should be made in such a way as to prevent loss of any part during
use, either by using fireproof materials in construction, or some other
method to prevent partial loss.
- Shafted tools (clubs, staff) should either be made of fireproof materials
(metal, carbon fiber, etc) or have a protective covering that extends at
least 4 inches beyond typical flame contact zones (for a spinning staff,
this is 4 inches in either direction of a wick).
- Handles should be attached with much the same care as wicks. Balls or
tethers should not depend on glue or friction to remain on the shaft; some
hard device should be employed to maintain attachment.
- Chain grips should be made of durable materials, or augmented with metal grommets when soft goods (e.g. leather, nylon) are used, and should be vigorously
checked before each use. Any sign of wear should be considered cause for
- If the device has multiple connected parts or chains, the connectors attaching
all parts together should be of a sealed ring type rated above the maximum
possible stress that can be applied to the device.
- Any connectors that could be exposed to heat should be made of tempered
metal; not plastics, drop forged or spring metal.
- Drop forged connectors (snap connects, et al) should not be positioned
where they could be struck by another metal piece [to prevent shattering].
- Before each use, the performer should quickly glance over each device
to insure that all parts are in good condition and stable. A quick test
is to grasp each wick and tug it away from the normal point of contact.
- Before each lit performance, special care should be used to insure all
nuts, screws, and wires are tight and secure. Grips and handles should be
thoroughly checked for security and the wicks should be tested thoroughly.
Any sign of wear should be treated as a failure.
- Tools should be soaked, splashed or basted so that excess fuel can be
completely recovered and sealed or returned to proper containers
- Always spin off excess fuel, in an area free from expected foot traffic
and far from ignition sources, before performing.
- If available, make use of wick attachments to catch fuel before hitting
the ground, avoiding the spin out zone entirely.
- Always mop up oily fuels before leaving. Remove oily residue from performance
area between performers. Treat mops, rags, or other cleaning devices as soaked wicks.
The basics behind fuel safety are to insure that an uncontrolled burn does
not occur, and that the audience and passive safety devices are not affected.
Performers should have MSDS for all fuels used and be familiar with any special
needs for them.
A) Storage and transport
B) Back stage fuel
- A fuel's original retail container is usually the best choice for storage
- If the original container is too bulky or unavailable, then a sealed metal
container is the best overall choice. Canadian performers should use governmentally
issued containers of the appropriate type.
- Fuels should be kept out of direct sunlight, away from sparks or flame,
and in vapor sealed containers.
C) Open Onstage Fuel
- All primary fueling should take place in a back stage fueling area.
- Back stage fuel stations should be manned by a performer, guard or spotter
until completely secured.
- Always seal fuel containers and dip buckets when not in use.
- When at all possible, place the fuel area outside, behind a hard wall;
and have a clear corridor from the fuel area to the stage. Never move wet
wicks through the audience without guard escort.
- If you can't have a hard wall between fuel and fire, place a spotter with
a towel between and insure that fuel containers are sealed before any ignition.
- Audience and smoking should be restricted within 30 feet of fuel station.
- If an onstage fuel reserve is needed, all effort should be made to restrict
quantity and capability of accidental spills.
- Highly stable metal containers with self-closing lids are preferred
- Fuel quantities should be less than 8 oz (240ml).
- Unneeded fuel (i.e. after use) should be removed immediately.
Each performance should be arranged so that the audience is never in danger
of taking damage from the performer and so that the venue is safe as well.
B) Flame toxicity
- Depending on the nature of the audience (seated, drunk, familiar, passing
by, etc), an adequate separation from the performer should be maintained. Barricades may be required for large audiences or certain venues.
- If the performer will be spinning tools, breathing fire, or otherwise
producing effects that are not entirely within their field of vision at
all times, the audience should be sufficiently separated to allow guards
or spotters to intercept audience members attempting to enter performance
area. Usually 15 feet is adequate.
- If the performer will be using a tool that is predominantly within their
field of vision, implicitly under their control (ex. fire fingers), or the
audience does not require excess management (i.e. seated or fenced), then
the performer may come within a few feet keeping in mind audience flammability
C) Performance area
- Petrol fuels burnt on open wicks always produce toxic fumes, smoke, or
other health hazards that are augmented in an enclosed space.
- Petrol fuel burning should be very limited indoors, even in well-ventilated
venues. When possible, use high-proof alcohols in place of petrol fuels.
- For outdoor spinning, semi-enclosed areas with low wind can be as hazardous
as indoor locations.
- Whenever petrol fuels are used, the most purified fuel is preferred: white
gas or lamp oil over kerosene.
VI) Clean Up
- The performance area should be cleared of all flammable materials, or
flammable materials should be treated with approved fire retarding chemicals and tested for combustibility in a safe manner before performance.
- Props and other terrain features should be taken into account when designing
a performance, performers should not be in danger of contact with foreign
- Careful note of sprinkler systems should be made to determine proximity
to performance, possible triggers and other specifics.
- In the case of plant life, handle all flora as though untreated
Immediately after each performance, fuel buckets should be closed and sealed,
fuel returned to approved transport containers, fuel stations locked or
removed from premises and any residual fuels mopped up and removed. Hot
tools should be wrapped in safety cloth until they cool down. Any exotic
materials (i.e. flame retardant) should be removed, locked or guarded.
http://www.nafaa.org/nafaa_safety.html [Revision 2.1] Updated 5 Jul 2005