Fire Walking

By Steve Roberts

Control the elemental force of Fire! Walk over hot coals with bare feet! Brave the flames through sheer willpower and courage! Get dirty feet and smoky clothes! Feel the relief (as we relieve you of your money)!

So what is this firewalking all about? Amazed that people are paying a small fortune to be “taught” this rather ludicrous and futile experience, and having conducted a couple of backyard trials, the Victorian Skeptics decided to benefit the public of Ballarat with the chance to do it for free.

One thing we found was that although firewalking may be simple, having a bonfire in a public place is far harder. We had to exert our influence over the city council (recreation officer and fire prevention officer) and cricket club (whose land would bear the fiery flames – although not actually at the wicket, as they at first believed), plus arrange room hire, and check with fire brigade, police and ambulance. And then we had to find firewood, especially inferior wood which burns down quickly, in sufficient quantities. Fortunately a local roof truss company obliged with a large consignment of pine, all in handy short lengths.

We also talked to Steve Moneghetti, golden boy of Ballarat, who expressed great interest. No doubt thinking of the roasting he would get if he flunked it, he then proceeded to win the Japanese Marathon race one week before the event.

On the day, we got the fire going well in advance, watched by the fire brigade with their best big red engine, settled the public into the nearby meeting room we had hired – it seated 150 but 250 turned up – and harangued them on the topics of UFOs, astrology, Noah’s Ark, spontaneous human combustion (in rather poor taste, I thought) and firewalking. All then trooped out to the fiery pit, now full of glowing coals, and watched in awe as El Presidenté and El Vice-Presidenté tripped the light fantastic over the pit. No less than 124 people then walked across the coals, from marathon runners to 6-year-old children, although toward the end the coals became sticky and tended to stick to the soles of the feet, which was a little unfortunate; also the coals cooled from their initial temperature of 700°C to about 350°C.

And how did it feel? Never having done it before, I was quite apprehensive and needed all my faith in Physics to help me face the flames. Yes, I did get a big blast from firewalking, but without the hours (or days) of psychological build-up the feeling did not last. Yes, I can walk over hot coals in my lily-white bare feet, ho hum; so what? Some people charge $165 to teach it, others charge $500 or more; we were going to charge $5 but we didn’t bother charging at all. We even gave away a badge and a baked potato (from the fire) to each firewalker. Crystals and runes may bend my spoons, but fire will never burn me.

Steve “Blackfoot” Roberts

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