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Fire breathing "Jaipur Maharaja Brass Band".
The Napalm Dragon's Breath, where the fire breather removes the torch and continues to breath the flame directly from the mouth.
Dragon's breath, where the fire breather continues to feed a full sized flame.
Time-lapse composite of a breath of fire
Fire breathing is the act of creating a large flame by spraying, with one's mouth, a flammable liquid upon an open flame. The flame is usually held an arm's length away and the spray should be both powerful and misty. This art is said to have originated in India.

A favourite among audiences, fire breathing often features as a dramatic highlight in climactic performances. Gene Simmons of the rock band Kiss regularly spouts fireballs during Kiss shows.

A number of legendary creatures are said to possess innate capabilities for fire breathing, most notably dragons and chimeras.

Safety

While not difficult to learn initially, fire breathing is the most dangerous of all the fire arts, and not just due to the obvious risk of serious burns. To increase safety, fire breathers must avoid highly explosive fuels such as alcohol, spirit-based fuels, and most petrochemicals, instead using safer combustibles with a high flash point (>50 °C) and relatively low burn temperature. 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 are still quite real, anything in the lungs other than clean air can lead to potentially fatal conditions. A relatively safe method for beginning fire breathers is to use corn starch: put two spoonfuls in your mouth and blow at a large flame held at arm's length away.

Wind direction is extremely important when fire breathing. To determine the wind direction artists usually watch the flame on their torch. If the torch's flame is not being blown in any specific direction then it is relatively safe to breathe. If a torch's flame is consistently blowing in a specific direction it is unsafe to breathe in that direction, or its opposite because it could go back at you and burn your face.

Breathers will usually carry a cloth to wipe their mouth between breathes to remove the fuel from their skin. Breathers with facial hair must be especially careful that the fuel does not collect in the hair where it could catch fire and would burn for an extended period, because hair acts like a wick.

Many breathers wear goggles to protect their vision in high wind, group breathing or downwards breathing scenarios. Polyester clothing should be avoided, as is can easily melt, drip and stick to the skin, and 100% cotton garments can readily ignite and continue to burn until the cotton fuel is exhausted. Flame-resistant treated cotton (i.e., Westex's INDURA fibre) or synthetic aramid-type fibre based (i.e., DuPont's NOMEX fibre) long-sleeve shirts and trousers are highly recommended for performers.

Fuel risks

Ethanol can be absorbed into the blood stream without drinking it. 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.Ultra pure lamp oil mist inhalation can cause a headache, sinus infection, and chemical pneumonia. If a large enough amount is swallowed it can also cause vomiting, diarrhea, and vitamin deficiency.

Fire breathing stunts

These are arranged in alphabetical order. These acts should not be attempted without professional training.

Vapor stunts

Vapor Stunts use the vapors (as opposed to liquid fuel) collected in the mouth (usually during an extinguish, see: fire eating) to light or keep a flame burning for what are usually smaller stunts. Vapor stunts include:
  • Cigarette Light - light a cigarette with a slightly larger human candle
  • Plume - slowly feed a candle sized flame with vapors you hold
  • Vapor Transfer - ignite one torch with the vapor from another
  • Volcano - shoot vapors straight up
  • Dragon's Kiss - Partial extinguish of torch #1, then sharp exhale to light torch #2 with vapors, extinguishing torch #3


One-person blasts

One-Person Blasts are basic or advanced techniques for a solo fire-breather. Some tricks are considerably more dangerous than others, and many advanced tricks require the skill of sustained blasts. One person blasts include:
  • 45 Degree Fire Blast - 45 degree up angle, or the most basic fire blast
  • Camp Fire - bounce the flame off the ground
  • Fart - bend over, stick head between legs, fire backwards.
  • Hell Fire - the fireball is breathed straight down while crouched. The performer rises as the flames engulf him/her.
  • Carousel - long horizontal blast while rotating through a full circle
  • Corkscrew - nearly vertical duration blast with the breather spinning under it.
  • Forward Fire Blast - parallel to the ground
  • Ground Lifter - Two or more Repeating Blasts lit from one torch ignition
  • Popcorn - 3 or more short blasts without refueling
  • Serpent - up and down horizontal oscillation while walking
  • Sustained Blast - Rather than a single pop, flame is maintained without source ignition for several seconds
  • Sunrise - like torch to torch, but overhead in a semi-circular arch
  • Sunset - downwards version of the sunrise
  • The Big O - Sunrise and Sunset combined into a large vertical circle
  • Moving Fire - light a torch held 3' from their ignition torch with a sustained blast
  • Upward Fire Blast - shoot upwards


Group fire stunts

Group Fire Stunts are fire-breathing stunts that involve two or more people fire breathing together to create larger, usually more impressive stunts. Group fire stunts are usually highly choreographed, and can take years to master. Group stunts include:
  • Biggest Blast Ever - Two or more simultaneous blasts straight up
  • Box - Eight (or more) people, combined skills allow passing l→r, r→l, front to volcano, volcano to front
  • A Circus Tent - Four or more blasts 45 degrees upwards, lighting off a high central point
  • Human Sacrifice - Forward Fire blast done over the length of a second performer's body, while the second performer is lying on a table. This is typically done with the flame mere inches from the second performer's body.
  • Eight - also known as "double circles" is when there is one kneeling circle blowing a horizontal blast, and a second standing circle (directly behind the first circle) blowing a vertical circle simultaneously
  • End to End/Rainbow - Two simultaneous Fire Blasts, both lit off a high central point
  • Grandfather/Elder - Three off-center, simultaneous campfire blasts. Creates a very tall fire vortex.
  • Group Carousel - Star Blast with group rotation
  • Group Serpent - like the Straight Pass, but alternate breathers perform Sunrise and Sunsets.
  • Machine - short blasts on the sides, long center blast, reconfigure, repeat
  • Multi Blast Carousel - Group Carousel with many short blasts instead of one long one
  • Star Blast - Four or more full blasts, all breathers standing back to back and blowing out
  • Straight Pass - Two or more people passing flames, like the torch to torch solo act, without secondary torch ignitions after the first breather
  • The Most Dangerous Trick in the World - Fire blast lit from partner's plume
  • Wheel - Three simultaneous blasts, center straight up, ends out to the sides and up 45 degrees


In modern culture

Black metal

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, the most likely originator of fire breathing in black metal culture was Quorthon, frontman of the founding Swedish black metal band Bathory. In a number of famous promotional photos, all dating from before 1988, Quorthon is seen spewing plumes of fire. According to bathory.se, the only official Bathory website, 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 the infamous Norwegian musicians began to produce similar promotional photos of fire breathing, most likely in emulation or tribute to the Bathory photos. An example of this can be seen at www.peterbeste.com featuring Frost of the bands Satyricon and 1349 performing the stunt in a cave in Nesoddenmarker, Norwaymarker. 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".

World record

On 14 March 2007, the Dutch student association T.S.V. D'Artagnan set the new world record for simultaneous fire breathing. A total of 113 people breathed fire together. On 15 October 2008, another Dutch student association, s.v. Intermate, increased the world record simultaneous fire breathing with as many as 267 people. On 23 April 2009 this record was succeeded by 293 students in the Dutch city of Maastrichtmarker as part of the Ragweek charity event.

In August 2007 the record for the biggest fire breathing pass was set at the Burning Man festival in the Black Rock Desertmarker, Nevadamarker. A single breath was passed to 21 people before the flame went out.

Tim Black (Australia) of Androgen Fire Art (androgen.net.au) blew a flame to a height of 5.4m (17ft 8.5in) on the set of Guinness World Records at Seven Network Studios, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, on 19 June 2005. He later equalled this feat on the set of CCTV in Beijing, China (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. This is the current record as published in the 2009 Guinness Book of World Records.

In fiction

  • David Almond's book The Fire Eaters is the story of a young boy living in Scotlandmarker who gets to know a local performing fire eater.
  • Inkheart (Cornelia Funke) character Dustfinger is a talented fire-eater and fire-breather. According to Resa everyone in his world knew his name; he is alternatively called the fire-dancer, because of his unparalleled talent.
  • In Skins series 3, episode 5, JJ swallowed a spliff, feigned choking, took a swig from the bottle of supposed urine and blew a fireball with a lighter. The urine was, in fact, paraffin JJ had planted eight months previously in preparation of the illusion.
  • In the anime and manga Inuyasha, Renkotsu of The Band of Seven uses oil to breathe fire.
  • The title character of Xena: Warrior Princess is capable of breathing flame at her opponents using a mouthful of alcohol and a nearby source of fire.


See also



References

  1. bathory.se
  2. intermate.nl/vuurspuwen
  3. [1]


External links




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