Disclaimer: If you are sensitive, highly empathic person about physical sensation, veer away from this entry NOW!

On my personal blog I have a number of descriptions of doing cold-weather fire shows. To those unfamiliar with them, it *sounds* like a good idea but really is its own special situation with unforeseen complications.  This local winter we haven’t had any fire shows scheduled, won’t lie, I’m not sorry about that but we still have to do training so that when we travel to warmer climates, we’re prepared.

Clothing-what sort of clothing keeps you warm? Fluffy, soft items of wool or down feathers, Acrylic mix-scarves, rayon –infused body hugging suits-all of which are fire hazards. Go down a mental checklist of what you throw on in the morning to stay warm and I promise that most of it can’t be near flames. And it’s bulky, to insulate from the cold. So basically any clothing you might wear to keep from freezing is bad for a fire show. What do we do? We stay wrapped up in a wool cloak until it is time to hit the stage and become human popsicles until our turn on stage is over.

But fire near your skin is nice, right? We may joke about that but if a show is that cold it’s really the opposite. Skin in the summer sweats and creates a nice moisture layer between you and the open flame. In winter skin tends to dry out and what do you use to moisturize? Yes, oils and unguents, most of which are (say it with me) flammable.  So we actually have to prepare our skin like a tanner before going out-to make sure that skin is moist but not covered with moisturizer. For fire eaters-lips can be a big issue with balms, choose carefully. And your skin is either super-sensitive (omg hot-cold-super-hot-omgcold-whaaaaaaaaaat) or not sensitive enough and you could give yourself a serious burn.  Sadly my first light is in January and some parts are more delicate than others. My hands are generally tough. My chest? Not so much and there are synapses firing in odd ways after the initial lighting and putting out.

And let’s not forget-it’s winter!  Hazards of ice, snow, wind, melting,  salt, sand and the usual of objects and people mixed in together. One of the most visually interesting winter show we did on a rural lake in New Hampshire on New Year’s Eve. The only source of light on the icy lake was a fire pit near the shore. We went out onto a sanded 10X10 area over the water and lit our tools. The sky was clear, the trees were black against the sky, we had to step carefully and our flames reflected off the ice.  And when a tool would be put out-it was total darkness. This was particularly dramatic with the fire eaters. As they extinguished into their mouths, no one could see anything once the flame was gone.

Another memorable winter show was Carnivale-themed and it was at the center of town. We had some high winds and blowing sand. At one point large chunks of snow started and it was truly magical. Until the wind shifted.  Our fire-breather, Minyon, has just tested the wind and blew. But the wind circled a building and came back. He immediately cut his fuel abs the blow-back came and stopped. His words:

“I saw Valkyrie with the human-safe extinguisher, Monica with the wet rag and (me) with the Duvetyn and no one had tackled me. So I knew I was safe.” He then drooled out his fuel onto Monica’s shoes (to this day she teases him about it) and had to spend the day showing his mouth to random visitors to prove he was okay.

And to finish, the level of precipitation in the atmosphere changes burns.  In the humidity, tools burn hotter and longer. Too wet and it’s a double-fueling. Cool and average is perfect and our estimates times come in to the second.  (October show, flourish and bow. July show, shaking fans like wet dogs and they won’t go out) winter is a game of guesswork. And the close in tools like fire eating (this is definitely time for eyes averting empathic people) one has to worry about that level of heat and humidity against cold teeth and expensive dental work. Metal fillings could crack and other items melt or burn. We are VERY careful about mouth tricks in the winter. I won’t lie, this squicks me out quite a bit.

So if you do burns where it is warm and temperate-I envy you a bit. But if you decide to do some fire spinning and tricks up north in our snowy clime, I hope you take precautions. And if you are a spectator-I hope you clap extra hard for your performers because it really is all for you with extra risk!