Urban Wildfires and Burning Man

Share your pictures and video. Tell us about the sights, sounds, and scents, as well as the rumors and truths found at Burning Man.

Urban Wildfires and Burning Man

Postby BlueBirdPoof » Wed Oct 29, 2003 9:05 am

With the situation in Southern California, I find myself wondering how surviving a fire changes one's relationship to Burning Man--or if it even does.

I can see it going a few ways: "After going through that, I ain't going to play with fire again! Burning Man is completely frivoulous, people playing with forces they haven't truly experienced"
"Losing my home/loved one/faith in the permanance of life really makes me want to enjoy every moment and I can do that so well at BRC."
or even
"Burning Man is so much about the emphemerality of everything and my time there in a strange way helped me cope with the loss I experienced."

Now I think it's way too early to really get a good answer from the people down south right now--but there have been a lot of wildfires in the west in the past decade/12 years, so maybe someone's been through it and has something to say. Or maybe someone knows someone who has quit BM after a catastrophic loss.

Just curious.
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Postby Angry Butterfly » Sun Nov 09, 2003 2:36 pm

I noticed this post and wanted to push it back up, I am curious about this too. I used to have really bad nightmares about fire, even though i lived across the street from the fire station when I was little, mabe it was because I lived across the street from it. I was always terrified of fire until I started doing fire safety. It was so bad that when I had the option of learning glassblowing at RISD, I wouldnt do it. I really regret that. I feel like the fires at burning man are so controlled and carefully watched that it is completely different from a wildfire, but I did start to get scared when the man burned. It was so hot, and the crowd was so big, and I was right up front because I had been doing firewatch. I even skipped the temple burn. Even though I dont really have a fear of fire anymore, I had enough of big fires for a while. The dancers I do safety for kind of like that I have what is now a "healthy respect" for fire since I take doing firewatch very seriously. Oddly, I have never really been scared of torches or candles, just big fires, anything bigger thatn a burning barrel.
I took the road less traveled, and now I would like to go back and find the paved one.
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Postby BlueBirdPoof » Wed Nov 12, 2003 8:36 am

I have/had a pretty big fear of wildfires myself--I was about 6 when the Berkeley Hill fire of 1970 occured and that was less than a mile away, I think. It's pretty primal for me. I guess that's why I asked the question in a way. Also, with Loma Prieta and to a lessor extent the HIlls fire of '91, I noticed that once the scary part was over, there was something wonderful. Disasters change the rules, and to me they are almost holidays for that. (Note, I haven't lost anyone or anything truly important in such an event. I don't expect I'd have the same attitude if I had.) Some of that "otherness" also happens at BRC.
Do you know about Public Glass in San Francisco?
http://www.publicglass.org/
The Crucible in Oakland is trying to get glassblowing facilities too.
I really loved what I've done with glass, mostly dipping in my toe.
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Postby Flux » Wed Nov 12, 2003 2:14 pm

BlueBirdPoof wrote:I really loved what I've done with glass, mostly dipping in my toe.

Ouch!
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Postby BlueBirdPoof » Wed Nov 12, 2003 4:12 pm

Walked right into that one. . .
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Postby tzimisce1313 » Wed Nov 12, 2003 8:22 pm

i think that there is a difference between wild fires and burning man. for the most part, burning man is controled. it's in an area where there are no dry shrubbery, trees, leaves, grass etc. to catch light.
and it also asks you to do the one thing that most people have problems with, and that's being in close contact with fire. it's a primal fear that you're trying to overcome.

at least that's what it feels like to me. same with bonfires.

but i would never try to overcome my fears by standing in the middle of a wildfire. that would be tempting fate.

so, i think that it may cause certain primal fears, it still is not comparitive.
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Postby BlueBirdPoof » Mon Nov 17, 2003 12:06 pm

I'm not denying the difference. I sometimes wonder if there are people who survived the Oakland Hills fire and never even considered BRC as a consequence. I guess my original question was trying to go after a vague sence of how I think that BM does play with disaster in interesting ways, and of how unless we experience something intense and disasterous we sucumb to the cultural invisibility of disaster.

Now I'm even vaguer! Another disaster!
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Postby Bob » Mon Nov 17, 2003 12:47 pm

I helped a friend evacuate during the '91 Oakland Hills fire. The fire stopped within a blocks of his house, but the fire winds made it feel like it was next door. The only thing close to it at Burning Man was finding Joegh Bullock's camp on fire in '97.

There was a greater similarity between my experience in the flashfloods and landslides as a result of the '82 & '83 El Niño storms, and the '98 post-event rains in the desert. If anything, surviving natural disasters -- or just plain-old wilderness camping -- inoculates you to conditions in the desert.

Fire on the playa holds no special symbolism or taboo for me, any more than four inches of mud for miles around.
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Postby Jane Eric » Mon Nov 17, 2003 2:09 pm

When I was young my father took me through burnt up houses; he was a volunteer fireman. I have vivid memories of Dali like clocks still hanging from the wall, melted telephones, acrid smells of things not meant to burn. I've lived near all my life in Southern California and am attuned to Fire Season. Fire happens for a reason in the wild, we're just in the way. All that beetle kill wood out there? Gone. So are the beetles. Mother Nature's rinse in the washing machine. Pop goes the pinecones that require fire to open, reforestation slowly begins. Not in our lifetime, but hey, like I said, we're just in the way.

I've lived through big fires before, I'll see another I'm sure. The only smart thing to do is evacuate, as in get the fuck out of the way like Bambi. Your stuff is just stuff.
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