Wick Care and Fire Safety Guide
To ensure your wick has a long life, and to keep yourself and others around you safe, there are some important things to be aware of. Regardless of if you are new to fire spinning, or are a seasoned professional, safety is paramount and ensures we can all continue doing what we love.
A printable .pdf version of our Fire Safety Quick Reference Guide can be found here (or as separate image files here and here) - you are welcome to download and distribute in your local club or flow group and use as needed.
- Wick Preparation
- Maintenance and Care
- Safety Person
- Fuel Type
- Dipping and Storage
- Spinning Off Excess Fuel
- Lighting Up
- Safety Equipment
- Respect the Flames
- Fire and First Aid
- Use a fuel safe container that will allow your wick to be completely submerged in fuel.
- For new wicks, soak the wick in fuel for approximately 10 minutes until the wick is completely soaked through. All subsequent dips only require enough time to get the entire wick wet – a few seconds is sufficient.
- Drip and spin off excess fuel after dipping and before lighting up – how to safely do this is outlined below.
- Never ever light your wicks near the dipping station.
- It is highly recommended to extinguish the flame before the fuel burns out. This ensures only the fuel is being burnt and not the wick itself and will extend the life of your wick.
- Once the fuel has burnt off, use a damp 100% cotton towel or a fire safe blanket to completely extinguish the flame. Do not leave your wick smouldering.
Maintenance and Care
- Always, always, always check your equipment before use, no matter how many times you’ve used it before. Make sure there is no damage and no loose parts that could come flying off during your burn.
- DO NOT use your prop if it is damaged. Replace any broken/damaged parts and tighten any loose parts before using your prop.
- It is highly recommended to protect your wicks when you’re not burning them. You can get funky wick covers, or simply use a sock with a hair tie to hold it on.
- Trim any frayed sections of the wick before burning.
- Where possible, spin over a soft surface like grass or sand. Dropping your wicks onto concrete or other hard surfaces can damage them and shorten their life.
- One of the most important things to remember when you’re spinning fire is to ALWAYS have a ‘safety’.
- The safety is the person who watches your back – literally – as you spin. They’ll make sure that if you catch yourself on fire (and don’t know/can’t see it) the flames will get put out before you get badly hurt.
- They should know first aid, be comfortable around fire, and most importantly, not be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- The safety will also take on crowd control if you are spinning in a public place.
- Your safety should be trained in using fire safety equipment, such as fire extinguishers, and be responsible for ensuring these items are nearby if needed.
- We strongly recommend using Solvent 3440 Special – commonly known as ‘Pegasol’ or ‘Peg’ – as your go-to fuel. It is the fuel that many fire and flow groups in NZ use and for good reason. Enquire with your local fire and flow group as they may be able to sell you some for personal use.
- Solvent 3440 Special (we’ll call it Peg from here) burns cleaner and brighter than Kerosene and the fumes are less toxic. It doesn’t feel oily, and it doesn’t stink, meaning your clothes and props won’t stink either. Peg is also much safer as it has a higher flashpoint, is harder to ignite and is safer to store long-term. Plus, it has the added bonus of being similarly priced, per litre, as Kerosene.
- While Kerosene is widely available, we recommend only using it as a last resort. It is more toxic, burns hotter and is easier to ignite, meaning it’s simply not as safe as Peg.
- Definitely stay away from the low-odour Kerosene – this stuff is not only more expensive but has added chemicals to reduce the odour which makes it more toxic.
- Pegasol 1425 – commonly known as Fuelite or Shellite – should only be used for skin transfers, eating, vapour tricks and quick-light effects, not for spinning. It doesn’t burn as long as Kerosene or Peg (3440) but is more expensive, it evaporates quickly, has a much lower flash point, is explosive and the vapours are flammable. This fuel should be used with extreme caution.
- Isopar H, similar to Peg (3440) but more refined. The flashpoints of Isopar H and Peg are similar, but Isopar H produces less smoke, fumes and odour, and is an absolute must for any indoor fire performances.
- Never ever use petrol or diesel.
Dipping and Storage
- You should always use a fuel safe container (a metal container is recommended) with a secure lid for dipping. Replace the lid after each dip so no fuel gets spilled if the container gets knocked.
- Additionally, using a secondary container (a larger container that the dipping container can fit into – even better if it also has a lid) to catch drips and spills is also recommended.
- It is recommended to store your fuel in the container it came in. This container will be fit for purpose and well labelled. If you do need to store it in a different container, make sure it’s safe for the type of fuel you are storing, and always label it correctly – this means clearly stating that it is dangerous, flammable, and what type of fuel is inside.
- Never keep your fuel near any flames. Store it long term in a secure place well away from any flame, and always make sure your dipping container is away from the spinning area.
- As with any dangerous substance, always make sure children cannot access your fuel.
Spinning Off Excess Fuel
There will always be a few drips after dipping your wicks, and it’s important to spin the excess fuel off safely, before lighting up. Some experienced spinners like to spin off after lighting up, but we do not recommend doing this unless you know exactly what you’re doing.
There are a few ways you can spin off excess fuel. Once you have dipped your wick, hold it just above the fuel and allow any drips to drop back into the dipping container before spinning off.
Spin off Bucket
- Place the wick end of your prop into the bucket.
- Spin/twist/rotate your prop inside the bucket so the excess fuel flies off and is caught in the bucket. Do this until no more fuel comes off your wick.
- Pour the excess fuel back into your dipping container.
Spin off Bag
- Place the wick end of your prop into a zip-lock bag and zip it around your prop as much as you can.
- Spin/twist/rotate your prop inside the bag so the excess fuel flies off and is caught in the bag. Do this until no more fuel comes off your wick.
- Unzip the bag and pour the excess fuel back into your dipping container.
Glove and Squeeze
- This method is only recommended when a spin-off bucket or bag is not available, and it is less environmentally friendly as it uses disposable gloves.
- Cover your hand with a disposable nitrile glove.
- Hold your wick just above your dipping container and squeeze with your gloved hand.
- Excess fuel will drip back into your dipping container.
- Once you're fueled up, spun off and ready to burn, move away from your dipping station.
- Always light your wick from underneath – flames burn upwards and lighting from above can cause burns.
- Make sure your wick is fully lit before spinning otherwise it may go out when you start to spin.
- It’s a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher on hand. The best type is a dry powder extinguisher, otherwise known as ABE – this means it will safely work on a range of fire types, including flammable liquids.
- A fire safe blanket or a damp 100% cotton towel are also recommended. These will come in handy, not only for putting accidental fires on your person out, but also for extinguishing your prop safely.
- Keep your safety equipment nearby! It’s no use having an extinguisher in your car parked 5 minutes away.
- Unless you are a trained professional with the right safety precautions (and insurance) in place, never spin fire indoors.
- Check your surroundings BEFORE you dip. This means making sure there are no holes or tripping hazards in your spin zone and making sure there is enough room to spin without hitting anyone or anything.
- Where possible, spin on a dry, level surface. This will minimise the chance of you slipping or tripping over.
- Always check with your local council regarding fire restrictions. This will vary based on where you are and what time of year it is.
- Use common sense when lighting up – if the environment is super dry, crunchy grass and brown leaves, it’s probably not the best idea to fire spin.
- Pay attention to which way the wind is blowing. Try and keep it at your back as this will blow the flame away from you.
- It is extremely recommended to wear natural fibres – cotton, wool, leather, silk etc. - when fire spinning and to avoid synthetics – polyester, nylon etc.
- Clothing made from natural fibres may still burn, but it will not melt to your skin like synthetic fibres – ouch!
- Remove any accessories that could catch fire, such as wigs or long feather earring, or any accessories that could get caught in your prop, such as charm bracelets.
- Just like Goldilocks, we want our clothing just right. This means not too tight (this will restrict your movement) and not too loose (this can become a hazard).
- While not completely necessary for most spinners, you can find special flame-resistant gear, such as Kevlar or Nomex clothing, gloves, and sleeves.
- Although not technically clothing, it is recommended to tie up long hair before burning. Long, loose hair is more likely to catch on fire than hair that is tied back. You can also lightly dampen your hair to reduce the fire risk even further, but do not use hair products like hairspray – this can increase the fire risk.
Respect the Flames
- It’s always a good idea to know a bit about how fire works before attempting to manipulate it.
- Fire always burns upwards. If you are holding your prop stationary, be conscious about how you are holding it. For example, a stationary staff or hoop should be held horizontally, as holding it vertically will allow the flame from the bottom wick to creep up. Poi and rope darts should be gently swung to keep the flame away from your hands and body until you are ready to spin.
- Try to always keep the fire moving once you’ve lit your prop. This will reduce the risk of burning yourself and help to control the flame.
- Don’t light up until you are comfortable and feel confident doing so.
- It is highly recommended to only do moves/tricks that you know and are confident in when spinning fire. Save learning that new trick for a practice prop.
Fire and First Aid
Accidents happen. Having a safety who knows what they’re doing is super important and, knowing a thing or two about first aid yourself won’t hurt.
- Listen to your safety. They will tell you if you’ve accidentally caught yourself on fire and haven’t noticed yet.
- If you do catch on fire, you can try and put it out yourself. If this fails, stop spinning immediately so your safety can safely assist you.
- Using a damp 100% cotton towel or fire blanket, smother the flames until they are completely extinguished.
- Ensure any props are also completely extinguished too.
- If the burn is severe, call 111 immediately and request an ambulance. Make sure the person is safe from further harm and is breathing. Remove any restrictive items (jewellery, belts etc.) as burns can swell rapidly. Do not immerse severe burns in water as this could cause hypothermia. Instead, use a cool, damp bandage or clean cloth to cool the burn. Elevate the burned are if possible, and watch for signs of shock (going pale, shallow breathing, fainting etc.)
- If the burn is minor, the best thing to do is get it under cool running water as soon as possible and leave it there for at least 20 minutes. Remove any restrictive items as burns swell quickly. After cooling the burn with water, cover it with a non-stick sterile dressing to keep the area clean – it’s important to avoid using adhesive tape on the skin around the burn as this can cause further damage.
- DO NOT burst any blisters – this can cause infection.
- DO NOT try to remove any fabric that is stuck to the burn as this could also remove some healthy tissue and increase the risk of infection or nerve damage (this is why synthetics are a no-no)
- DO NOT apply creams/ointments/lotions etc. to any burn as infection may occur and complicate the injury. Any substance applied to a burn may have to be removed later and can cause complications.
- If in doubt, call 111 and request an ambulance.