PLEASE NOTE: some aspects of these guidelines are under review. All the information contained is still useful and applicable, but we may expand or change content according to new safety requirements. We’ll let you know in due course of any changes.
AfrikaBurn’s a freedom of expression and creative arts event that’s a Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ), but when it comes to fire safety, there are some default world requirements that call for diligence and common sense. These aren’t designed to bog down artists and creators, but to make our burn as safe as possible for everyone concerned.
The Artists: that’s you!
Rangers: those magnificent people who walk Tankwa Town to help us with all they can.
FAST: (our Fire Art & Safety Team) A mixed bag of crew that are working or volunteering to assist and try to make the burn as safe as possible. This team is a mix of engineers, fire technicians, the creative portfolio and Rangers.
Know anyone who should be on this crew? Let us know, thanks!
Safety Officer at AfrikaBurn: It is a requirement of SA event regulations to have a registered Safety Officer and crew on site to ensure that all legal requirements pertaining to health and safety on site are met.
South African law: Yes, we’re a Temporary Autonomous Zone, but it takes place in the Republic of South Africa, and when it comes to safety, this means we have to adhere to the Health and Safety at Events Act.
MOOP/LNT team: they will advise on clean up and sign your site off as cleared. This will reflect on the MOOP map. Find out more here about LNT for Artworks.
It’s important to remember that all of the above make up the team who work together to safely satisfy your lust for flame.
If you’re planning on building a large artwork, it’s important to consider that the citizens of Tankwa Town are likely to push the boundaries of interacting with your piece. As such, the structural integrity of the piece is paramount. Depending on the scope of the work, we can either utilise the services of our volunteer engineers or you might be required to have the structure signed off at your expense. You’ll need to communicate with the Art team on this during the development of your piece.
When planning an artwork that you intend to burn, you’re not only making an artwork but building a (large) fire, so it’s important to choose the materials you use carefully. As a rule of thumb, untreated raw wood is always better to burn than ones that contain glues, such as plywood, Masonite, MDF, Supawood and chipboard. Consider how these materials burn: cardboard, thin sheets of plywood or veneer under 6mm thick, chipboard and cloth can create sheets of embers blowing great distances, showering sparks down on people, tents and vehicles. Not good: we don’t want that under any circumstances.
Bamboo is a great construction material but be aware that the cells are sealed chambers filled with air, which cause small ‘explosions’ when burning. Bamboo is clean environmentally, but need to be considered when managing and setting up your fire perimeter.
Laminated wood is often treated with fire retardants. These retardants can greatly affect the burn time and end with support pieces remaining upright long after the bulk of the piece burns away. If there is laminated wood that contains glues in your structure, understand that a higher speed burn releases less noxious fumes than a slow burn.
Heavily painted or treated wood, plastics and other inorganic materials can cause excessive fumes and won’t be allowed to burn. Do not use them.
Paint: utilise water based paints, food dye, natural stains.
Wires and Cables: Where possible, avoid the use of wire stays and support cables as these are a hazard to the public after the structure has dropped and the perimeter has been collapsed. People moving between and around the collapsed artwork in low-light conditions are not able to see the wires/cables and the risk of them tripping and falling into burning coals is a very real possibility.
As a creator of a piece that’s going to burn at the event the actual burning of the artwork is obviously part of the work. It’s a heady and exciting thing to do, so planning is important. You’re responsible for all aspects of this and must work in conjunction with our fire & art teams. It’s compulsory to attend one Burn Briefing before you burn your piece. They happen at 2:00 PM everyday from Thursday to Sunday. Please enquire at the Arteria for more details (you should come check in anyway, when you arrive on site).
As the surface of our desert floor is hard and rocky, it would be more disruptive for us to grade the surface layer of desert floor to insert a burn shield. The Tankwa floor is very resilient in that it recovers remarkably well after a season of weather.
Our approach has been to minimise burn scars by placing artworks that are intended to burn on sites that have had a prior burn. You can help us minimise new burn sites by not burning your piece on a virgin piece of Tankwa floor.
Your artwork doesn’t have to burn on the site that it was built – you can use an existing burn site. Please be aware that you’ll still have to remove all your burn debris. And it’s important to be considerate to other artists: if they’ve already cleaned their burn site, make sure you leave it as clean as they did.
Please come to Arteria to make arrangements.
Designate one person from your team to be the Fire Safety Perimeter Manager for your project. This person (who can be the artist his/herself, if necessary) will be the point of contact for the FAST and Rangers.
The Fire Safety Perimeter Manager is similar to a Stage Manager, and should possess the following qualities:
In preparation for a burn, the artist and a representative of FAST must clearly identify and set up the Burn Zones. The diagram below is an example of a 21m-radius perimeter.
Starting from the inside and working outward, the Zones of a burn are:
This is calculated as a function of radius from the center of the artwork/structure to be burned, and it is determined for 2018 to be 3 times the height of the structure.
The size of your artwork, the materials used for its construction, the type fuels and fuel load needed and if you plan on using pyrotechnics are all factors that will go into determining the perimeter needed for your piece.
The size of your burn perimeter will be ascertained by FAST at the Burn Briefing the day before your piece is scheduled to burn – it’s mandatory that you are at this Burn Briefing.
Larger burns require that you plan for placement of fire/emergency lanes and entrances for emergency and fire service vehicles. To identify and divide quadrants, and create Safety Corridors, AfrikaBurn uses clock face designations. Normally the Safety Corridors would be placed at the 3ish & 9-ish positions (see diagram above). FAST will help you with this planning.
You will need a minimum of one person on your Perimeter Team for every 8m of the perimeter’s circumference. To make it simple:
We recommend a maximum distance of 4.5 meters between Outer Perimeter Fire Marshals.
Make sure your Perimeter crew can be easily identified and distinguished from participants by the use of Hi-Viz (dayglow) safety vests to be worn over their jackets or other outerwear. If you have the bandwidth, creating artwork(s) specific vests is a very nice keepsake/gift for those that assist with your perimeter.
For larger burns, divide the burn circle into four quadrants and number or name each one. Designate one person to take responsibility for each quadrant. Make sure everyone knows the name or number of his/her quadrant. This will make the task of locating emergencies or other issues easier for all involved.
Clear communication at all levels is essential. We’ve found that radio communication is great help for all burns and is a requirement for larger burns. In the event of a perimeter collapse, make sure all perimeter crew know not to put themselves between a surging crowd and a fire. All crew should go to the designated rendezvous point so that everyone can be accounted for.
All artists must create a timeline and/or scenario for their burn. This will allow FAST to coordinate with other artists’ burn scenarios before and during the event. Outline the burn from start to finish, including establishment of the perimeter, the loading of any pyrotechnics, any pre-show performance, fueling details, ignition of the art, any structural collapses, and ending with the release of the perimeter. Fueling details should include types of fuel used, how the fuel will be placed and in what quantities. We’ll need to understand who will stay with the piece overnight to ensure the piece is completely out and no longer a danger to participants. We’ll also need the details of your cleanup plan, including who will lead that effort.
For smaller and less complex burns it’s possible that a perimeter can be set with a small staff and without the need for a marked barrier. Larger burns will need to plan for a marked perimeter and secure supplies such as markers, blinky lights, or caution tape (your last resource) to define your perimeter before the burn.
Regardless of burn size you will also need a number of appropriate and fully charged fire extinguishers to deal with any premature ignition or unintended fires. An advance plan will need to be in place to cover any weather conditions that could halt the show after fueling has taken place or pyrotechnics materials have been installed. This will require an all-night standby. Artists must be proactive and prepared for protecting their artwork from being disturbed once it’s loaded with fuel or staged with pyrotechnics to avoid any unintended burning or participant injury.
Registering your artwork by filling out the art questionnaire will help to create Fire Art safely. Communication between the Creative Crews and the Art Wranglers and FAST is very important to get this right. The earlier you start your discussions, the better the FAST team can assist you.
Once you’ve arrived in Tankwa Town, you’ll need to check in at the ARTeria. This communicates that you are ready for a face-to-face dialogue with FAST and to be escorted to your art location on Binnekring. We will also need to know where in Tankwa Town you are living in the case that we need to find you, so come prepared with that information.
Most perimeters should be set at least two hours before the performance/burn. This timing is dependent on the project’s size, intensity and the complexity of your pre-burn activities. Pyrotechnic performances should have a perimeter established before the pyrotechnic load-in begins and the perimeter must remain in place until after the site has been declared safe. This initial pyrotechnic perimeter can be a smaller perimeter depending on the size of the structure, quantity and type of pyrotechnic material being used. A member of FAST who is certified for pyrotechnics will discuss this with you prior to your chosen burn day. A sufficient supply of fire extinguishers should be on hand from the beginning of the perimeter set up and must be visible and accessible at all times.
Form a tight ring of teammates arm-to-arm around the immediate performance area. Together as a group, proceed at a slow pace outward towards the eventual perimeter to ensure that foreign objects and non-crew participants are not within the perimeter. Be assertive, but polite. You are the host, they are the guests. This is your gift.
Once the perimeter has been set, your perimeter team must be diligent in keeping audience members out. Remember, the perimeter is there for their safety. Sitting is not recommended for the perimeter crew, as it is too difficult to spring into action from this position. Squatting, or crouching with one knee down is better. All members of the perimeter crew should have a flashlight or headlamp for visibility and safety.
Additional team members may be needed to stand back from the front line of the perimeter crew to catch anyone who makes it through the perimeter line (this does happen).
Before the performance, this second line can stand in for perimeter crew members when they need a bathroom break. Also, have some food and water available for your crew, and encourage them to bring warmer clothing to wear under their safety vest for a cooler evening.
Working with your audience is very effective and good humor is essential. Make friends with the audience; it’s crucial that they assist you. Perimeter crews always face the crowd, with your back to the art piece. If you do not set up a perimeter before the audience arrives, it’s really difficult to get them to move back. Also, do not be too concerned if the crowd yells things like “burn it!” The crowd can sound surly, but they are at your burn to see the show and have a good time. Be patient and sensible.
For large performances, ask the first three or more rows of watchers to sit down. This way everyone can see and the likelihood of a sudden large perimeter break is greatly diminished. The people who arrive earliest for a performance often have cameras and are more than happy to sit. Since they would prefer others don’t trample their setup, they are typically more than willing to help you. Remember that in holding a perimeter, the situation can change quickly. The crew needs to stay focused and flexible throughout the
event. Please ensure that you crew are sober.
On large burns, a member of FAST will arrive a few hours prior to the scheduled time of your burn to identify themselves to the artists. This time will be confirmed at the Burn Briefing on site. Refrain from adding fuel to the artwork before the FAST member arrives. The FAST member will make a final check of your piece, and if all is in order, they will issue the burn laminate for your piece, and inform the Rangers and the Emergency Services Department that your piece is on schedule to burn. You may then proceed to
fuel your piece and complete your preparations to burn.
Just before the burn, a FAST member will check the weather. Barring any high wind conditions or other negative weather factors you will receive an OK to burn from the FAST member.
For simple burns not involving pyrotechnics or large amounts of liquid fuels, the decision on when to drop the perimeter is based on when the highest pieces of the artwork has fallen. The idea is that a hazardous situation exists until any components of the artwork over 2m tall that may conceivably fall, have actually fallen.
For larger burns, FAST will help you to make this decision. For projects involving pyrotechnics, and not scheduled to burn completely, the pyrotechnics crew must make a sweep of the area for unfired pyrotechnics materials before the perimeter can be dropped at FAST’s direction. FAST will NOT allow a pyrotechnics crew member to enter a burning structure to check that the pyrotechnics have gone off.
Once the perimeter has been dropped, it’s important to make sure that any unburned wood or other materials that have fallen outside of the burn area are thrown back into the burn. It is important that these items do not become a tripping hazard for participants approaching the fire. If there are rebar, ground screws/ground anchors or stakes protruding above the desert floor, cones will be needed to be placed over them to alert participants. Tree poppers are available at the Arteria.
Once the perimeter has been released an overnight crew will stay with the embers to ensure participant safety and to prepare the area for clean up (LNT) in the morning. Do not allow participants to throw items that are not to be burned, like plastics or hazardous materials, into the fire. Braaing marshmallows is completely acceptable.
If your burn plan goes like clockwork, great! But remember: in Tankwa Town you must be flexible and patient to have a successful burn.
Completely cleaning the site of your burn is essential for the continuation of our event and it is your responsibility as the artist. Magnet sweepers and Tree Poppers will be available on loan from the Arteria to pick up metals and take out rebar. ALL debris must be cleaned from the site – including leftover coal from the burned wood.
Once the burn site has been cleaned the artist should return to the ARTeria to have an authorised MOOP team member return with them to the site of the burn. Only after this last review of your burn site will you be considered checked out and able to leave the site. Please note that not cleaning your site will affect funding applications in the future.
In order to always improve what we do we need to hear from you about your experiences with your burn. Please send in any feedback that you have to [email protected].
If you have further questions, please email: [email protected]
When we say “Fire performer” we’re talking about any person who uses fire props as a medium of dance, and expression. They can be amateur, or professional. These guidelines are intended to reduce the risk to both the performer, and any audience members. Fire performers assume all risk of this activity – AfrikaBurn doesn’t accept liability for this activity.
It’s assumed that all performers know what they are doing, and have
received basic safety instruction.
The use of any pyrotechnics, explosives or fireworks are strictly governed by the Explosives Act. For more info, please mail [email protected]
Flame Effect is defined as “The combustion of solids, liquids, or gases to produce thermal, physical, visual, or audible phenomena before an audience”. This includes all flames that are automated, switched, pressurised or having any other action than simply being lit on fire; as well as projects using propane or other liquid or gaseous fuels. The Recipient must comply with the following guidelines:
The majority of Flame Effects at AfrikaBurn utilise Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG). Most of the guidelines below deal with LPG as a fuel. Regardless of fuel type or technological basis, all Flame Effects must be constructed in such a way as to meet or exceed applicable laws, codes, and industry standards.
All fuel supply pipe, tubing, hoses and fittings shall be rated for the type of fuel being used and the maximum operating pressure of the effect AS PER SANS 10087 – THE HANDLING, STORAGE, ETC. OF LPG.
Accumulator tanks for use with flammable or liquefied gas shall be designed, manufactured, and tested in accordance with the national standard which govern this.
If the gas supply pressure exceeds the maximum allowable operating pressure (MAOP) of the accumulator, a regulator must be installed between the fuel supply and the accumulator to reduce the pressure below the accumulator’s MAOP. A pressure relief valve shall also be installed in the accumulator with a start-to-leak setting at or below the MAOP and a rate of discharge that exceeds the flow rate of the supply container. Flame Effects must never be left unattended. The winds in the desert are highly variable, and may create havoc in a poorly monitored installation, including fires or explosions. Any Flame Effect found running unattended will be shut down. Egregious or repeat offenses will result in the confiscation or disabling of the effect.
For larger Flame Effects a safety perimeter and clearance from other art or flammables may be needed. Please see the guidelines for Safety Perimeters for info on these.
Those providing transport of fuel should read these fuel delivery and transport guidelines.
You deserve a medal – a fire safety diligence medal! Thank you for taking the time to absorb all of this info – as you can see, it’s all based on common sense and is underscored by the need to keep Artists, crew and participants safe, alive and well.
If you’ve got any suggestions on how we can improve our info, let us know. And equally, if you’d like to get involved in enabling safe fire art at AfrikaBurn, get in touch: [email protected]