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"How does she not catch a-light?"

I was delighted when someone shared this video of me for two reasons...

  1. The screams ! As soon as I started performing with these fire snakes some kids started screaming with excitement and awe; and it continued and even became louder from start to finish. I was so thankful someone had captured this unforgettable memory for me on camera, its very dear to me.

  2. This is the perfect video for discussing some very important points with regard to fire safety. Firstly, the little girl exclaims: "That hit her, that hit her..." which leads her mum to ask thoughtfully: "How does she not catch a-light?"

These two quotations showcase some common questions and concerns about fire spinning that create the perfect back drop for a small Fire FAQ post to answer them..

The girls exclamation was not really a question, but rather an observation and point of alarm! If it's a point of alarm then with it there is a question of concern...

Q: If it hits her does it cause her harm?

A: It very rarely causes harm because the fire does not hold contact for long enough to burn. We also wear fire safe clothing. In the trade we refer to the moments the flames brush us or wick taps our body as "fire kisses". At best we are left with a soot patch, in-between we might singe a few hairs and on a rare occasion we may end up with a small graze or blister. Accidents do happen but anyone performing with fire should have fire safety training (I do) and someone called a "spotter" who is there in case something goes wrong.

Q: How does she not catch a-light?

A: Firstly I don't catch a light because flame requires continued and prolonged contact with a combustible material before it "catches" on fire or starts to burn. When I am dancing I am continuously moving so the flames do not have long enough contact if any at all with my person. Secondly, we also wear fire safe clothing. Along with this, I have gone through extensive practice with my art; we refer to one aspect of this as "plane control" which means that we have learnt to control exactly what angle the poi head (part that is on fire) is travelling. This control means that the poi do not have contact with our body unless it is intended or within a threshold we know will not cause us harm.

On "...we also wear fire safe clothing": Clothes that are made from natural fibre such as 100% cotton or 100% wool or leather are considered to be safe while dancing with fire. A lot of natural fibre has a higher ignition temperature meaning they need a more prolonged contact with fire than synthetic fabric such as polyester, to ignite. Along with this, because it is natural (without plastic), when they do ignite they burn to ash rather than melt onto the skin (as plastic does) which means there is less risk. You may notice I was wearing a leather waistcoat. Leather requires a very long exposure to flame before ignition.

So, plane control/skills, safe clothes, safety training, spotter, fire kisses...

These are just some fire safety pointers with regard to the questions asked in the video. There are many more aspects to fire safety than this. A fire performer must also carry a fire blanket and/or appropriate extinguisher to put out fires, have a large space with some kind of notice or barrier to keep people back and out of harms way, and INSURANCE!! to perform in public and cover any damage costs. All of the possible problems may be unlikely to happen, but managing and responding to risk is a very important part of the profession and taking it seriously is a sure sign that the person you are hiring is the best of the best.

It takes a lot of experience and training to become proficient enough to perform with fire. Fire performers should always have a "spotter" to watch over them and be available to help quickly if something happens. As a professional insured performer I have the knowledge, experience, and training to manage these things. Do not play with fire without adequate training, experienced "spotter" to watch over and protective clothes, equipment, extinguishers and measures in place.

Click "book me" to make enquiries for a well managed fire show that will make kids scream with excitement and awe !

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