Fire performing is a captivating art form that can make an event unforgettable, it’s beautiful, visceral and of course, it’s dangerous. In NYC, the stakes are high, it’s the mostly densely populated city in the country. So, it’s no surprise that the FDNY is the largest fire department country, the second largest in the entire world.
December of 2015, the FDNY began issuing licenses to fire performers and fire producers,This new system will allow more fire legal fire performances to happen throughout the city. These new Certificates of Fitness are the E-28 Fire producer and E-29 Fire Performer. In order to get the Certificate of Fitness, performers must take an accepted safety course, have a fire performing resume and a letter of recommendation, then they can take a test at the FDNY Headquarters, so far there are about 30 E-29 performers and 4 E-28 producers who can oversee large shows and unlicensed performers. In order to do a fire show in NYC, the performer must have the CoF and insurance, the venue must also have a permit issued by the FDNY after an inspection of the space and how the fire show will happen. It’s still complicated but now at least we have a system and I have written out step by step instructions in an article for Gigsalad to help performers navigate it.
Want to know how it’s done in your area? you can check the NAFAA map or look up your local fire marshal and just ask. If there is no system or the system isn’t working for your community then approach your local Fire Department with lots of knowledge and respect, have a plan but also don’t be married to that exact outcome. In the case of the Seattle FD, we learned that if we don’t set up our own regulations or help the Fire Department establish them, then the restrictions placed upon us could not be ideal. I recommend taking the FAI Safety Course before meeting with them and bring your certificate of completion. It really helps to quote this article from NFPA 160:
“ Performers and support personnel familiar and experienced with the flame effects being used shall be permitted to be in the area of a flame effect, but only voluntarily and in the performance of their duties.”
When I approached the FDNY, they appreciated that I knew this Federal Code and they were interested in hearing how you obtained a Certificate from FAI, so I scheduled 2 days at their office to show them the materials. The meetings went better than I expected. It was a round table meeting with expert fire performers (Myself and Flambeaux Fire), a representative from the Fire Prevention Unit, the Chief and Deputy Chief of The Explosives Unit and the woman who writes all the CoF test materials. They decided to make the FAI Course and my Safety Course at The Floasis the two options as prerequisites for the CoF program. In smaller counties, perhaps the Fire Marshal or Commissioner will accept the FAI certificate without any extra hoops to jump through. If you are interested in coming to NYC and taking our test, you will most likely be able to get your local Fire Department to accept that. This CoF is already accepted in Las Vegas and NYC tends to set the highest standards for gun permits and other licensing programs which makes it the most accepted around the country.
The culture of fire performance around the country is changing, it is too popular to remain renegade in urban areas, so it’s up to us to establish a culture of safety. This will require educating yourself and your fire spinning community and approaching the authorities with humility. Just make sure your intentions are in the best interest of the city, safety, education and the progression of this amazing art form and not to put other fire spinners down. The downside to taking on this role will be that you will occasionally have to “harsh” reckless fire spinners or even careless fire institutions and you will have to prove yourself knowledgeable to egoists and you might make enemies with the renegade spinners. But after enduring all that personally, I am now consulting the staff of pyrotechnicians and fire performers for The Metropolitan Opera. 80+ fire performers that have taken my Safety Course since December have expressed so much gratitude for the work that I have done that I’m glad I didn’t let it stop me. Thanks to the education of NAFAA and The Flow Arts Institute, the connections from Flambeaux Fire and the cooperation of The FDNY, we are all changing the face of fire performance across the country!
Please consider getting your certificate of education to help spread the movement.