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Fire Safety




Fire Fuels


Copyright © Hana Priest

The below information is specific to the fire fuel available in Western Australia.

If you want the quick answer...your best option is Recosol G, available through either Hana Priest, at Dangerous Delights (contact) or Omega Swift, at Fyregear (contact). This fuel is ideal for use on all fire props, as well as the best option for fire breathing. The only thing it's not good for, is vapour tricks (for this you need Shellite, available at most hardware stores).

What are your fire fuel options in Perth, Western Australia?

KEROSENE is the most readily available fire fuel, as it can be purchased from all hardware stores. It's also the cheapest. However, it's the most smokey and smelly of the fuels, and leaves a lot of sooty residue on your fire props. It's unpleasant for an audience when performing, due to the volume of smoke and the strong smell. Some people get headaches when exposed to Kerosene.

Fire props using Kerosene are easy to light, burn with a good orange flame and have a good burn time (the length of time it talkes for all the fuel to burn out). Kerosene is suitable for fire eating, body tracing and fire breathing, however, Recosol G is a much better option.

If you are just looking for a cheap fuel to use for your backyard spinning and you don't mind the smoke and the smell, then Kerosene is your best option (Recosol G costs double).

CITERONELLA is like Kerosene (see above) but with addatives to keep the mozzies away and alter the smell.

LAMP OIL is very oily and thick in comparison to all the other fire fuels. It produces less smoke than Kerosene and doesn't produce as much odour, making it more pleasant to use.

Lamp Oil has a good burn time but is slow to ignite (compared to the other fuels). The flame slowly creeps up your fire prop after ignition, rather than the whole prop catching fire at once (as with the other fuels). It also burns with more of a red flame, that's noticably different to the orange flame of other fuels.

Lamp Oil is suitable to use on all fire props but the slow ignition time is a nuscience if performing or spinning in windy conditions, when props are difficult to light. Shellite can be used to make it faster to light, buy dipping your props briefly in Shellite, after dipping in Lamp Oil.

SHELLITE Aside from Lighter Fluid, Shellite is the most volatile of fuels suitable for use with fire props. It lights instantly, burns quickly and feels slightly hotter than the other fuels. This fuel needs to be handled with care, as even the vapours from the fuel are flammable. It's far easier to set your clothes and hair on fire if spinning with Shellite, than it is with other fuels. It's also easy to accidentally set your fuel container on fire. So if you are spinning with Shellite, always place a lid on your container after dipping and wait at least 30sec after extinguishing, before re-dipping your props.

Shellite is, however, the best fuel to use if you're doing vapour tricks and transfers. If you want your skin to stay on fire after a body trace, do a hand transfer of flame from one prop to another, or make candles while fire eating, you need Shellite.

Shellite can also be used to make it faster to light a prop soaked in Lamp Oil, buy dipping the prop in Shellite, after dipping in Lamp Oil.

If you are from overseas...Shellite is the equivalent to "White Gas" or "Coleman's" in the USA.

COLEMAN'S CAMP FUEL is much the same as Shellite (above) in terms of it's use and properties. It can be purchased from camping stores and is cheaper than Shellite.

ALCOHOL Beverages with an alcohol content of 60% (120 proof) or higher are volatile enough to be used on fire props, but they produce a poor flame. Fire eaters and fire breathers may consider using a high proof alcohol, instead of the other fuels, due to the lower toxicity. However, the amount of alcohol you ingest from just a few fire breaths, can be significant and make you quite drunk. This is then a dangerous condition which to be in, while working with fire.

LIGHER FLUID can be used on fire props but it's very volatile. It lights instantly, burns quickly and the flame is very hot. It's also quite expensive to purchase in quantities sufficent for use on larger props.

The only thing Ligher Fluid really gets used for by fire spinners, is squirting some over the top of wicks dipped in another fuel, in order to get those props to light faster. For example when using Lamp Oil or if you have charcoal poi/staff.

RECOSOL G is the best fire fuel we have available in Western Australia. Over the past 10 years, several fire performers have approached distributors of fammable liquids in WA, to test their various fuels, to find the one that works best. By best we mean: lights easily; has a nice, big, bright, flame; a good, long, burn time; isn't too smokey or smelly; doesn't create much residue on fire props; is suitable for use on all fire props, including fire eating, body tracing and fire breathing; and isn't volatile, making it realively safe to work with. Recosol G came out on top.

Recosol G, however, is not readily available. You won't find it in any stores. It needs to be purchased from an indistrial chemical supply company in large quantities (over 100L at a time). Hana at Dangerous Delights and Omega at Fyregear, purchase it in these large quantities and then on sell it by the litre. It's costs double that of Kerosene, but is actually cheaper than all the other fire fuels.

PETROL or DIESEL are NOT at all recommended as a fire spinning fuel. These fuels are highly volitile and highly toxic. Don't use them. Ever.

 

All flammable liquids suitable for fire spinning are toxic. You are burning liquid chemicals. All fuels should be treated as toxic to your body, whether making direct contact on your skin, mouth or eyes, or through enhaling the vapours or smoke. Even though some fuels are safer to use than others, no fuel should ever be considered "safe".

Always obtain a Material and Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for which ever fuel you are using, so that you understand it's properties and can take appropriate precautions when dealing with that fuel. This includes what to do if the fuel gets in your eyes or is accidentally ingested.

Always keep any fuel in a clearly marked fuel container. Water bottles or other drink bottles are not suitable, as it's easy for the fuel to get mistaken for water and drunk by accident.

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SDS - Safety Data Sheet


Copyright © Hana Priest and Jed Fowler

What is an SDS?
A Safety Data Sheet is an internationally standardised document containing information for handling or working with a particular substance. SDS was previously known as MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) in Australia but this term has now been replaced with SDS to reflect the new international standard. SDS's include information like the flash point, toxicity, possible health issues and handling procedures for the substance, as well as what to do in an accident.

Who should read an SDS?
Anyone who uses a fuel or toxic material more so than the average consumer. Which means you, if you perform or interact with a fuel in any way. You should also read the SDS if you are a safety person for a fire performer, so you understand what to do in an emergency, such as the fuel being swollowed or getting into someone's eyes.

Why should I read the SDS?
To use and interact with your fuel in a safe manner you need to know things like how flammable it is, what happens if you get it on your skin, what should you do if you swallow some, what do you do if you get it in your eye, what should you do if you spill it, how should it be stored, how it can be safely extinguished if on fire, will/can it explode, will it give you cancer, what effects can result from long term use etc.

Where do I get an SDS?
Every company that manufactures or distributes hazardous chemicals must have/provide an SDS for that substance. The purchaser has the right to know everything about the material that they are purchasing and as such, the seller must assist you in obtaining a copy of the SDS.

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Clothing


Copyright © by Pele

Can my clothing burn?
Clothing can burn if it comes in contact with excessive heat (hot metal parts on fire equipment) or the actual flame.

Can flame resistant clothing save me?
No it will not. As an electrician I have seen flame resistant barriers and flame resistant cables catch on fire and burn quite happily. This can also happen with flame retardant and flame resistant clothing. Flame resistant means it will be difficult to set on fire but it is possible, it also means it is likely to self-extinguish when the heat source is removed. Flame retardant is easier to set on fire compared to flame resistant, it should also self-extinguish without the heat source.

Why use flame resistant clothing?
Flame resistant clothing can on catching fire give the wearer extra time to remove the clothing or smother the flame. e.g. dropping to ground and rolling over. Flammable clothing can however be given a flame resistant finish to minimize the risk of catching on fire and slowing the burning process.

What does the fire service use?
The fire service or other dangerous occupations wear expensive industrial flame resistant clothing. These are made from materials like glass, aramid, novoloid, sulfar, and saran. These materials are used in special weaves and combinations to reflect heat and be highly flame resistant. We use a particular weave of Kevlar® (aramid) on fire poi as a medium to soak our fuel onto. The fuel will burn and the kevlar® or kevlar®/glass weave will not as long as fuel remains, although it will degrade over time. Kevlar® on its own will not protect you from the heat.

What makes clothing burn faster?
Fabrics with loose weaves or worn loosely tend to catch fire more easily. This is because there is more oxygen around the fabric to aid the burning process. Fluffy or fuzzy clothes, or clothes with dangly bits hanging off them, also tend to catch on fire easily, unlike smooth, not fluffy clothes, with no dangly bits. Denim, with its heavy closely woven weave, tends to burn slower.

What is safe?
Unless labeled as flame resistant or flame retardant all fabrics should be treated as highly flammable. Natural materials in tight weaves without fluff and the thicker the better will, however, give you more time to put out the flames and will provide you with better protection.

Wear tighter clothing which is less likely to catch against your fire poi or staff as it passes your body and will have less oxygen between them and your body.

When I say "better protection" I mean a few seconds like 3 to 4 sec at best. Your clothes could catch on fire behind you and you could be unaware until it is too late. You must have a spotter or safety person watching over you at all times, holding a wet towel or fire blanket. Safer clothing will give them extra time to put you out.

When smothering the flame, be sure to cover the performer so as to push the flame away from and not into their face or air ways.

How can I protect myself further?
Spraying the material with water will remove air from between the weave and hence, provide some additional protection.

What about my hair?
You should consider wetting your hair before performing, or use a cotton/denim hat or beanie to cover your hair.

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Other General Safety Information


Copyright © Hana Priest

Safety check of equipment
Check equipment each time you use it. Check all split rings, handles, chain, links and screws.

Have a fire blanket, wet towel, appropriate fire extinguisher and first aid kit, all readily available. This will also include checking that the first aid box is fully stocked and fire extinguisher is pressurised and ready for use.

If you are not 100% sure it is safe, then don't light up!

Your personal safety
Wear tight fitting, natural fiber, clothing. Conceal or wet long hair. Know where all the safety equipment is. Have a designated safety person while spinning. Make sure the safety person knows what to do in case of an emergency.

Safety of others
Be aware of any local fire bans. Be aware of local fire safety regulations and permits if required. Do not use fire on a flammable surface. Keep others out of the fire spinning zone. Mark this area and have barriers if possible. Have someone be in charge of keeping onlookers safe. Keep unused fuel well away from the performance space. Have fire safety equipment readily available and know how to use it.

Dipping
Fully submerge the wicking in your fuel. Swirl around a bit and remove. Try not to get fuel on the rest of the equipment.

Removing excess fuel
Squeeze excess fuel out of the wick to prevent spraying whilst spinning. Big downward sweeps are another way to shake the excess fuel off but this is not good for the environment or performance area, so try and contain fuel droplets. The best way to do this with poi is to use a spin-off bucket or container which catches excess fuel as you spin your prop.

Lighting the equipment
Always light equipment at its base i.e. the bottom of the wick. If it's windy, use your body to shield the flame so it doesn't blow out. Turn it so that the wicking isn't just burning on one side. When lighting equipment, make sure that it is a safe distance away from the fuel container.

Extinguishing equipment
When the flame gets low and fuel starts running out, the fire will begin burning the wicks instead. So before this happens, extinguish your equipment by either blowing it out or smothering it with a damp towel. When putting the towel over the wicks, the flame will be pushed away/out from the source. Make sure the flame is not pushed back to yourself or others. In an emergency, use a fire extinguisher.

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First Aid For Burns

Copyright © Doc Lightening

Of all the injuries that fire performers accumulate, burns are probably the most common. This article aims to teach performers how to identify the three main classes of heat burns and the appropriate first aid for each class.

This article is not intended to cover general fire safety nor does it cover chemical, electrical, or cold burns. Please do remember your basic fire safety rules, and also remember that if you catch on fire, STOP, DROP, and ROLL.

Classes of burns

First Degree Burns
A first degree burn is caused by brief exposure to heat. In a first degree burn, the skin is intact, but red and the burned area is painful. Sunburn is a type of first degree burn.

Second Degree Burns
A second degree burn is caused by prolonged exposure to heat or very high temperatures. In a second degree burn, the skin may be intact or it may appear to be partially peeling. It may also appear moist or have a mottled appearance. Any burn with blisters is second degree. The burned area is very painful in a second-degree burn.

Third Degree Burns
A third degree burn is the most serious type of burn and is caused by prolonged exposure to very high temperatures. In a third-degree burn, the skin is burned through its full thickness. The tissues underneath the skin may show through. The edges of the burn are frequently charred. The center of the burned area may not be painful because the pain receptors in the skin have been destroyed along with the skin.

How do I care for a burn?
Regardless of the class of burn, the first thing to do is to STOP THE BURNING! Get the heat source away from the skin and extinguish any flames. Use a wet towel to put out any burning toys that may be tangled and near the skin and work to remove any hot metal from the skin as quickly as possible. Once the heat source is removed, examine (but do not touch!) the burned area to assess the class of burn.

For First Degree Burns
If you have identified the burn as first degree, immediately immerse or run the burned area under cold water. A garden hose works nicely. This forcibly lowers the temperature of the burned skin and stops the burn from getting any worse. Most first aid books say that this should last 20minutes. Don’t use ice, cold, running water is best.

After the skin has been cooled, do not apply lotions or salves. Leave the skin uncovered and dry. Most first degree burns resolve after 1-2 days. For pain while the burn is healing, put cold, wet cloths on the burned area and you can take ibuprofen if necessary.

For Second Degree Burns
If the skin is intact (not peeling) then either immerse the burn or run the burn under cold water for at least 20 minutes to stop the burning. After the skin has been thoroughly cooled, you may apply an antibiotic ointment or cream. Do not try to burst the blisters.

The burn will usually resolve with minimal to no scarring within 7-14 days, although it may take as long as three weeks. Once the blisters burst on their own, try to trim off the dead skin with fine scissors. This is painless and helps to prevent infection. For pain while the burn is healing, put cold, wet cloths on the burned area and take ibuprofen if necessary.

If the skin is broken do not immerse in water as this can lead to infection. Cover the burn in a clean, dry dressing (gauze works nicely) and go to the nearest emergency room.

For Third Degree Burns
After removing the heat source, cover the area in a clean, dry dressing. If there is clothing stuck to the burn, do not try to remove it. Because victims of even relatively small third degree burns can go into shock suddenly, call an ambulance rather than taking the victim to the emergency room if at all possible. Third degree burns are notorious for getting infected and prompt medical treatment is required. Failure to receive prompt medical attention can result in gangrene, loss of a limb, or sepsis (infection of the blood, which is often lethal). In particular, a bacterium known as Pseudomonas aeruginosa tends to infect severe burns. This infection is very difficult to treat with antibiotics.

When to seek immediate medical attention for a burn?
If a blister is greater in diameter than 2 inches (4-5 cm), if a total burn is larger in surface area than about the size of a deck of playing cards, for any burn involving a break in the skin (including all third-degree burns), if the burn involves the face, hands, feet or genitals, and if the burn is an electrical or chemical burn.

When to seek medical attention during normal working hours?
If a burn starts to look infected (red, painful, swollen, warm). However, if an area of redness appears around a burn and spreads over a period of several hours, go to an emergency room as this may signify a serious and life-threatening infection. Also, call your doctor if the burn does not seem to be improving after 10 days or you feel the burn is getting worse.

Remember: When in doubt, seek medical attention for a burn. Burns are complicated medical injuries and may require very advanced care for severe cases.

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