There is so much that falls under the "safety" category. Please read everything.
There are many types of fuel available today. The most common and preferred in the US is White Gas, aka Coleman's Camp Fuel (shown here). White Gas is very bright, very volatile, and cooler burning than some other fuels. It costs about $13 at most Wal-Marts or equivalent. Outdoors stores and Hardware stores charge $15. Coleman does not offer bulk discounts. White gas can be used for fire eating and fleshing, but should NEVER be used for breathing because it ignites as a liquid VERY quickly. White gas has a cancer label on the side, and contains trace amounts of lead. Just the same, its the most popular option.
Other options are Charcoal Lighter Fluid, Kerosene, Isopropyl Alcohol, and Ultra Pure Lamp Oil.
Ultra Pure Lamp Oil is made for hurricane lamps (indoor lamps that use a wick, sort of like a tiki torch) It is much more oily than White Gas. Ultra Pure is commonly used in the US for Fire Breathing, because it does not ignite easily as a liquid. Sunshine Fire Toys does not endorse fire breathing.
Ultra Pure burns longer than white gas, and is also often used in a 50/50 mixture with white gas to extend the burn time of a fire prop without sacrificing flame size. Ultra Pure can be found in most hardware stores. Ace Hardware can order you a case of 4 big bottles for around $75.
Isopropyl Alcohol burns very clan, but hotter than white gas. Isopro fueled wicks burn with a smaller, blue flame. This can be good for indoor performances. Sunshine Fire Entertainment often mixes White Gas and IsoPro (75/25) for indoor performances to cut down on smoke.
Kerosene and Charcoal lighter fluid are other options as well. These act similarly to Ultra Pure but are more smokey and stinky. Sunshine Fire Toys does not use Kero or Charcoal, but many people do. In Europe Kero is the most popular option, and regarded as the safest because it has a very high flash point and is hard to ignite as a liquid.
how to fuel your props
Sunshine Fire Toys and Sunshine Fire Entertainment recommend using a Double Bucket Fuel Dump. A 5 gallon Home Depot bucket (or similar) houses a smaller 1 gallon paint can. The liquid fuel lives in the gallon can. In the event that the can catches on fire, place the plastic lid of the 5 gallon bucket on top and clamp it down. This kills the oxygen feed and the flame will extinguish. Watch a video of us extinguishing a dump at the Detroit Fire Collective:
The benefits of the Double Bucket Fuel Dump are obvious, and it costs less than $10. Using a single container for dipping a prop works, but it is dangerous. Odds of kicking over a small container of fuel are high. Get a double bucket, don't spin fire near it, and always keep the lid on.
Dipping your wicks
Remove the lid from the double bucket and submerge your wicks until the bubbles stop (5-10 seconds). Fuel all wicks on the prop this way, paying attention to the angle at which you are holding your prop because fuel will run off the wick if you are not careful. Props with smaller wicks like Fans or Hoops may not fit into the 5 gallon dump. In this case, remove the 1 gallon bucket of fuel for better access, but put it back as soon as you are done fueling.
Find an empty area and "spin out" the excess fuel. Spinning out a hoop or poi is pretty easy, staffs, fans, and other large props can be more difficult. Watch our video tutorials for a more in depth view.
Some people prefer to spin out their excess fuel after lighting the prop on fire. This is called a burn-off and should only be done if you know how. The whole idea is that you spray fuel ON PURPOSE into the air. Watch out tutorials to see how to do a burn-off safely. Never do them close to the audience or in windy conditions.
How to be a fire Safety
A Fire Safety Person has one job: watch the person spinning fire and save their life if needed.
The Fire Safety should have either a wet towel or a duvetyne. Duvetyne is cotton cloth coated in a flame resistent chemical. The benefit of duvetyne is that its not soaking wet. The downside is that if you put out a fully fueled prop you cannot safely reuse the duvetyne until the fuel evaporates from the cloth. Wet towels can be used over and over, but may need to be re-wet after a time.
Wether the safety person has a wet towel, or a duvetyne, their job is the same: Use the safety towel to put out your performer, or your performer's prop.
The Safety person should be holding the towel with both hands, and have both eyes on their performer at all times. Do not stand more than 15ft. from your performer. If you are too far and your performer catches fire, you will not get to them before they burn.
If your performer lights themselves on fire:
1. Tell them they are on fire. And by tell, we mean YELL: "MARK! ....LEG!" This tells Mark his leg is on fire.
2. GET CLOSE TO THEM. Give Mark a chance to put it out, but get closer. Frequently a small flame on the body can be snuffed out with your hand. If its bigger than your hand, the performer won't be able to put it out and you need to do it for them. It will become clear very fast if Mark cannot put it out himself.
3. Run to Mark and snuff out his leg with the towel: Wrap the towel around the fire part, and leave it there for a few seconds. DON'T pat the fire, that will only fan the flames. DON'T run at the performer if they are still spinning their prop. If you attempt to extinguish a performer who is still spinning, they will most likely hit you, and then YOU ARE BOTH ON FIRE. Fail.
The difference between a 2nd degree burn and a 3rd degree burn is a fraction of a second. Do not delay in putting someone out. The moment it is clear they cannot handle it, get the towel on them.
Putting out a prop
A performer may choose to extinguish their prop at any time, for any reason. We call this a safety out. If your performer signals to you they are ready to put out, here is what you do:
1. Place the towel on the ground between you. The performer should place their flaming wick in the center. Safety person folds the towel in half over the wick, and then in half again, and then a 3rd time. Push down on the towel over the wick to kill the oxygen feed.
2. When you are sure the fire is out, open the towel away from you, allowing smoke and fumes to escape. If you failed to put out the fire, this is when the flames jump out, so make sure your face is not over the towel.
Remember that a fire staff has two sides. While you are putting out one side with the towel, the other side is likely leaving a small puddle of fire on the ground. When you flip over the staff to put out the other side, don't put the extinguished wick in the puddle of fire, unless comedy is part of your act.
Putting out hoops, dragon staffs, swords, and other weirds.
To put out a hoop, the easiest thing to do is have your performer hold the hoop around their waist. Go around in a circle and wrap the towel around each wick individually. You can kind of clap the towel around each wick fast, and that should put them out quickly. Speed is important because if a hoop is left stationary you risk melting the plastic.
Dragon Staffs should be put out in a similar way, be careful not to let flames re-ignite wicks you just put out.
Swords must be wrapped completely in a towel, which means you need a towel large enough.
The basic rule of thumb is: make sure you have a towel big enough to wrap around your thing.
How to be a good performer for your Safety
Communication is key. Know your safeties name, and they should know yours.
1. Do not light your own prop. Your safety should be the one to light you, this guarantees that the safety is ready and has their full attention on you.
2. If you do weird things with your burns, tell your safety first. "Hey, just so you know I light my crotch on fire on purpose." This way when you do that, the safety is not freaking out and running at you.
3. Don't stray too far from your safety. They should be following you at a distance of 15' or less, but don't make then chase you all over the place. It's easy to get lost in your flow and forget where you are, but it's important to stay in on space.
4. Check in with your safety during the burn. Look at them occasionally to give them the opportunity to let you know things are ok, or horribly wrong. Do this a LOT within the first minute of your burn. This is when flaming fuel is most likely to fly off your wicks, and when you are most likely to light yourself on fire.
5. When you are ready to put out your prop, tell your safety. They should place the towel flat on the ground (unless it's a hoop or other multi wick prop). Give them 1 wick at a time.
Wear natural fibers only (cotton, silk). Check your tags. If you see polyester, lycra spandex, fleece, microfiber, etc, you are not wearing natural fiber.
Everything burns, including cotton. The difference is that cotton will burn without melting to your body. Synthetic fiber like polyester will melt to your skin, and pretty fast too.
Wear a hat or handkerchief to protect your hair. It is not uncommon for the most advanced spinners to light their hair on fire.