How Can We Burn Better?
A burn scar is a discoloration of the surface soil caused by chemical changes in the minerals due to contact with intense heat from fire. Burn scars can last for many years on the Black Rock Desert. Over time they can form bumps, which are hazardous to vehicles. Volunteers have spent thousands of hours cleaning up burn scars from Burning Man past and continue to do so.
Obviously, the most effective way to eliminate burn scars is to not start fires directly on the playa surface. A fireplace, burn barrel or barbeque can be effective for small fires (in permitted areas only). The BLM will issue citations to anyone who burns anything on the playa surface. Do not burn anything that is not yours! Don’t burn others people’s artwork. If they want their art burned, they’ll do it themselves and you can watch.
- Don’t Burn on the Unprotected Playa – Burning Man is all about burning; we’ve become the experts at LNT Burning. Burning directly on the alkaline playa BAKES the surface into a dark, hard brick-like material. Don’t do it!
Burn Only at Safe Public Burn Sites – Use camp burn barrels or community burn platforms or bring your own burn blanket or corrugated metal to prevent burn scars and make fire cleanup easier.
- Don’t Burn Anything That Releases Toxic Fumes ! — Do not burn PVC (nasty dioxins are released), carpets, plastic, large pieces of furniture (couches, futons, etc.) or painted wood. You (or your children) will regret it later! Pack these out when you leave and drop them off at a nearby landfill.
- Do Not Put Any Glass into a Fire – Glass does not burn, it shatters. Please discourage anybody with a glass bottle from throwing it into a fire. They don’t melt. Trust me. That’s the worst place for glass bottles.
- Remove All Ash – Plan your burning to include removal of ash and unburned residues after they have cooled. If you’re hardcore, pick out recyclables (a magnet helps to find metal). Then bag up the rest to haul home. Be sure you clean up anything you burned on the public burn platforms. They’re not dumping stations!
- Don’t overload the Public Burn Gardens – Have tools on hand to break down and cut up larger pieces or take them home to recycle them for your structure next year!
Burning Larger Pieces
For those that have something larger to burn, use the Community Burn Pyres located at the ends of some of the radial streets, about 100 ft. out from the Esplanade. These are the only places where open fires may occur.
If you plan to build and burn an art installation, you have a number of options available to prevent burn scars. With some preparation and intelligent use of materials, this can be integrated with the aesthetics of an installation. Carry your art to the closest Community Burn Pyre, the Man site OR build your own burn pyre. You must plan your art to
(1) prevent the heat of the fire from baking the playa,
(2) prevent smoke, ask and burning residue from landing on the playa and
(3) allow for easy clean up and removal of all materials and debris.
To create an acceptable burn pyre for your art, you must elevate your project at least foot off the playa surface using corrugated steel atop bricks or cinder blocks (or the like), or use heat-resistant silica fabric covered with at least two inches of sand. Examples of configurations that might work for planning an acceptable art bun include:
- Elevate the art completely on posts or legs, using a heavy steel container with a metal pan underneath, at least a foot above the playa
- Hang the art from cables strung between poles
- Incorporate fabricated panels made from steel with flat or corrugated metal sheets attached to both sides of the frame under your piece, with the entire piece elevated above the playa.
- Place the piece on sheet metal elevated above the playa surface using bricks or concrete stones
- Also, if you are burning your art, don’t forget to red the fire safety guidelines, have a burn scar protection and clean-up plan and fill out the fire safety section of the art questionnaire.