Fire breathing is the act of creating a fireball by breathing a fine mist of fuel over an open flame. The proper technique and the correct fuel create the illusion of danger to enhance the novelty of fire breathing, while reducing the risk to health and safety. When using the correct fuel, it will only light when sprayed into a fine mist increasing the surface area of the fuel so that the fuel/oxygen/heat ratio is balanced enough to cause combustion.
- 1 Safety
- 2 Training
- 3 In modern culture
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Performing with fire has many inherent risks. Having an actively spotting trained safety assistant with an appropriate fire blanket and fire extinguisher is an appropriate best practice when fire breathing and is a mandatory clause in most insurance policies for professional fire breathers.
The vast majority of professional fire-breathers are apprenticed by a seasoned professional and it is strongly recommended that teaching oneself be avoided due to the extreme risks. Most people who are taught fire breathing and eating skills are seasoned performers in their own right and are taught under the condition that the skills are not passed on until they become a recognised fire performer in their own right. Virtually all recorded incidents of serious injury by fire breathing involve untrained individuals, often while under the influence of alcohol. Using an incorrect fuel is usually a strong contributing factor.
To increase safety, fire breathers must avoid highly combustible fuels such as alcohol, spirit-based fuels, and most petrochemicals, instead using safer combustibles with a higher flash point (>50 °C). Due to its relatively safe (~90 °C) flash point, paraffin, or highly purified lamp oil, is the preferred fuel for fire breathing. Although corn starch has been cited as a non-toxic fuel, the hazards of inhalation increase the potential risk of lung infections.
With fire breathing, the greatest risk of self-ignition (lighting the clothing or costume) comes from using lower flash point fuels (like white gas) on the fire breathing torch. Untreated 100% cotton clothing is adequate for most experienced fire performers. Polyester clothing is not recommended, as it can easily melt, drip and stick to the skin when ignited. Flame-resistant treated cotton (i.e., Westex's INDURA fibre) or synthetic aramid-type fibre (i.e., DuPont's NOMEX fibre) long-sleeve shirts and trousers are recommended for fire performers (in general) who use the more combustible fuels on their torches. Non-flammable materials such as metal and leather are often recommended as costume choices, but as a lot of 'body-burning' techniques require bare skin it is often said that the less clothing worn the better.[by whom?] Some performers perform topless and it is not unknown for performers to perform almost or completely naked, usually female performers. This is usually not meant as an overtly sexual act but rather it increases the amount and variety of different techniques that can be utilised; with no clothing (or body hair) there is a markedly reduced risk of injury, especially to novice performers. Body painting can be used with nude fire performers in lieu of a costume, sometimes to give the impression that the performer is actually wearing a costume.
Fire breathers often carry a damp cloth to wipe their mouth between fireballs to remove excess fuel from their mouth and neck. This is essentially an insurance policy. The damp rag can be used to extinguish the face if it catches on fire. Even if you have never had an incident, the damp rag can be a lifesaver although experienced, professional fire breathers rarely use a damp rag as they are, or should be, skilled enough to prevent such mishaps. Facial hair can be an issue when using certain fuels and long hair should always be tied back. More combustible fuels have a lower flash point. The constant off-gassing of vapours increases the risk of combustion.
Certain beauty products should always be avoided, specifically spray-on deodorant, hairspray, perfume and some make-up sealants due to their flammable nature. This is often overlooked and a frequent mistake made by beginners.
Generally speaking no fire performer should have anything on their person that could easily be lit.
There are currently major calls from within the fire performance industry itself for regulation as a large number of self-taught fire performers have appeared on the scene (particularly in the UK) who have insufficient training and are posing extreme risks.
As there is no regulatory body for fire performers different individuals will have different opinions on best practices for techniques, safety and all other aspects of fire manipulation and thus precise information is hard to verify. The only seemingly agreed upon fact is that fire breathing/eating is a skill and not trickery and it is particularly dangerous and should only be taught under supervision of an experienced professional
When fire breathing with the wrong fuel, or an improper technique is used, fire breathing can increase the risk of:
- Severe burns
- Dental problems
- Fuel poisoning
- Lipid pneumonia or acute respiratory distress
- Dry cough
- Headache, dizziness, drunken ill feeling
- Nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach ache
- Dry mouth/cotton mouth
- Dry skin and topical heat burns
- Cancer of the mouth or throat from petrochemical exposure
The inhalation of paraffin in fire breathing can lead to very severe exogenous lipid pneumonia with potentially fatal side effects. This is true even when the atomized (misted) breath is not on fire.
Lamp oil will coat the pulmonary tissues causing severe inflammation, preventing proper oxygen absorption, and carbon dioxide expelling. Improper technique can be fatal.
A recommended fuel to use for fire breathing is "ultra pure clear unscented lamp oil", also known as liquid paraffin wax or mineral oil, which is difficult to find in most countries around the world. Improper technique using the proper fuel can still risk mist inhalation, which may cause symptoms such as headache, sinus infection, and lipid pneumonia. If swallowed it can trigger diarrhea.
Corn starch and powdered sugar (50:50) works as well, if one can stand the powder in one's mouth, though it can be inhaled and lead to health problems.
Fuels that are considered especially dangerous include:
- Ethanol can be absorbed into the blood stream without drinking. Thus attempting fire breathing with ethanol can cause intoxication.
- Methanol (used with many colored flame recipes) has a variety of entry vectors and can cause blindness or neurological disorders.
- Very low flash point fuels like naphtha, butane, and propane can create a condensed vapor build-up in the oral cavity leading to internal combustion, damaging the mouth or lungs. Naphtha also is quite carcinogenic, and performance careers built on using it entail a high risk of mouth cancer.
- Common fuels like gasoline and kerosene often contain carcinogenic additives or refining by-products, such as sulfurated compounds, or benzenes. They also are far easier to ignite and even a seasoned fire breather would be at serious risk of injury using these fuels for breathing
In modern culture
Contemporary fire breathing
As the Internet gained its ground to communicate over vast distances, the meme of the contemporary urban tribal fire dancing culture spread from its Polynesian, Thai, and Australian influences to the contemporary electronic music scenes of the world. Fire breathing has flourished in most western countries due to the high quality of fire breathing fuel and ease of access to it.
Rock and Roll bassist Gene Simmons breathes fire as a part of his onstage persona as "The Demon" in the band KISS. Simmons is probably one of the most well known firebreathers as he has been doing it during KISS concerts for over 40 years. Gene learned to breathe fire from a magician known by the name of "Amaze-O".
The heavy metal subgenre known as black metal has been known to feature fire breathing among its imagery. While heavy metal has a history of including fearsome stunts and sideshow spectacles, A suggested originator of fire breathing in black metal culture was Quorthon, frontman of the Swedish black metal band Bathory. In a number of promotional photos, all dating from before 1988, Quorthon is seen breathing fire. Quorthon ceased this spectacle due to overblown media attention to his image rather than music.
As the Scandinavian black metal scene of the 1990s expanded, a number of Norwegian musicians began to produce similar promotional photos of fire breathing. A number of black metal music videos have featured examples of fire breathing as well, including Immortal's "Call of the Wintermoon" and Satyricon's "Mother North".
Simultaneous fire breathing
On 14 March 2007, the Dutch student association T.S.V. D'Artagnan set a new world record for simultaneous fire breathing, the old record dating from 2003 and involving 70 people from the U.K; a total of 115 people breathed fire together. On 15 October 2008, another Dutch student association, s.v. Intermate at the Eindhoven University of Technology, increased the world record for simultaneous fire breathing to 267 people. On 23 April 2009, this record was succeeded by 293 students in the Dutch city of Maastricht as part of the Ragweek charity event.
Fire breathing pass
In August 2007 the record for the biggest fire breathing pass was set at the Burning Man festival in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada; a single breath was passed to 21 people before the flame went out.
Between 2005 and 2007, the world record belonged to Tim Black of Androgen Fire Art. In 2005, he blew a flame to a height of 5.4 meters (17 ft 8.5 in) on the set of Guinness World Records at Seven Network Studios, Sydney, Australia, a feat which he later equaled on the set of CCTV in Beijing, China in 2006. In August, 2007, Tim Black returned to the set of CCTV in Beijing, China, and broke his existing record by blowing a flame to a height of 7.2 meters (23.62 feet). Since then, his record has been surpassed by Antonio Restivo, an American; the record now stands at 8.05 m (26 ft 5 in) and was achieved at a warehouse in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, on 11 January 2011.
The most consecutive fire flames blown by mouth without re-fuelling was 129 and was achieved by Ambika Niraula (Nepal) at the Radisson Hotel in Lazimpat, Kathmandu, Nepal, on 27 February 2012. Preacher Muad'dib, a world record holding fire artist, set the Guinness World Record for the most flames blown in one minute (69), as well as the record for the most flames blown with one mouthful of fuel (16) and the most torches eaten in one minute using just two torches (83). All records were set at Potters Field, London, UK, on November 18, 2010, for Guinness World Records day..... On April 27, 2011 Preacher broke his record for most flames blown in one minute for the Italian version of the TV program "Guinness world records smashed". The record now stands at 85  He is currently recognised as the top fire breather/eater in the world today as he possesses more world records than any other fire performer, and is credited with inventing several techniques.
- Dietrich von Bern, a figure from medieval German heroic poetry breathes fire, illustrated in illuminated manuscripts (See #Rose Garden section)
- The title character of Xena: Warrior Princess (1995-2001) is capable of breathing flame at her opponents using a mouthful of alcohol and a nearby source of fire.
- In the Pokémon game series, Firebreathers are a common trainer class.
- In the anime and manga Inuyasha (1996-2008), Renkotsu of The Band of Seven uses oil to breathe fire.
- In the sci-fi horror film Pitch Black (2000), the character Paris breathes fire using his flask and lighter
- David Almond's book The Fire-Eaters (2003) is the story of a young boy living in Northumberland who gets to know a local performing fire eater.
- In Cornelia Funke's novel Inkheart (2003), the character Dustfinger is a talented fire-eater and fire-breather.
- In the Mario video game franchise published by Nintendo, Bowser is best known for breathing fire along with the Koopalings, Reznors and Bowser Jr.
- In Skins series 3, episode 5 (2009), JJ performs fire-breathing stunt, by swallowing a spliff and feigning choking, before taking a swig from a bottle that supposedly contained urine, and blew a fireball with a lighter. The urine was, in fact, paraffin that JJ had placed there eight months previously in preparation of the illusion. According to the DVD extra, JJ's actor, Ollie Barbieri, actually performed the stunt, and the startled reactions from co-actors Luke Pasqualino, Jack O'Connell and Kaya Scodelario were genuine.
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (April 2009)|
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- "Most consecutive fire flames blown by mouth (without re-fuelling)". Guinnessworldrecords.com. 2012-02-27. Retrieved 2012-08-13.
- "Guinness World Records Day 2010: Fire Breathing Records". YouTube. 2010-11-18. Retrieved 2012-08-13.
- "Lo show dei record - Spettacolo... incandescente! - Video Mediaset". Video.mediaset.it. 2011-05-05. Retrieved 2012-08-13.
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