Learn How To FIRE EAT Without Getting Burned!
The basic how-tos of fire eating, and more importantly, the how-not-to, from an enthusiastic consumer of combustibles. Fire eating is the act of extinguishing a torch in the performer’s mouth. It is easier than it looks but can be dangerous.
Please take basic safety precautions, such as never eating fire alone, or doing it while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Use proper equipment and fuel, and remain aware of your surroundings. Always respect the fire – it does not respect you.
Equipment Needed For Fire Eating Tricks
The first thing you will need in your quest to become a fire eater is, of course, eating torches. These need to be long-handled, either metal or wood with a metal sheath near the wick to keep the handle from burning through.
The wick should be cotton or kevlar, firmly attached, with no exposed metal. Exposed metal gets very hot, and can burn you badly. Do not use torches that are already charred – if there are white threads showing through the black on your kevlar wicks, they need to be replaced.
Over-used torches burn hotter than new ones. Always check your wicks to make sure they are firmly attached before using them – you do not want a burning wick to come off in your mouth. Choose the size of the wick that you feel comfortable with.
Start small, until you have the basics down. You can graduate to larger wicks when you become more advanced, and start getting into vapor tricks. Buy several torches, so you can switch them out and give them a chance to cool.
You will also need buckets for your fuel dump. I use a small paint can with a lid. For more safety, place the paint can inside a larger plastic bucket, also with a lid. That way, if the fuel accidentally catches on fire, you can extinguish it quickly and safely with the lid.
Probably the most important thing you need to consider is fuel. After all, this is the stuff you are going to light on fire and stick in your mouth! You want to make sure you are using the right stuff. I will discuss three options here.
ALCOHOL – Alcohol burns at a very high temperature. This is not a good thing. You do not want very high temperatures in your mouth. Besides, the flames are faint and hard to see. So it’s extra dangerous and doesn’t look impressive. Not what you want to be using.
LAMP OIL – Lamp oil burns the coolest, but it is drippy and smokey. It won’t evaporate, which means you could end up with pools and smears of fuel around that could be inadvertently lit. Not an ideal fuel.
WHITE GAS – White Gas (commonly sold as camp fuel – Coleman’s is a common brand) burns cooler than alcohol, and is easier to control than lamp oil. It also produces a very nice flame, bright and easy to see. This is what I recommend using. Besides, once you get more advanced, it works very well for the coveted vapor tricks.
I want to make one thing very clear. Fire eating is not safe. Besides the obvious danger of being burnt, there are many other health risks associated with eating fire. In fact, of all the fire performance arts, fire-eating is the only one that will harm you every single time you do it.
- You may not notice it, but every time you put a torch in your mouth, you are damaging your body. Here are some of the things that can happen to you.
- You may burn yourself. (duh.) Not just your skin, or the inside of your mouth, but also your throat. Or your lungs. And if you burn your lungs, that is permanent damage. Let me repeat that. You could permanently damage your ability to breathe.
- White gas is a carcinogen. Cancer is not cool.
- You could aspirate (breathe-in) fuel which could cause chemical pneumonia. A friend of mine got a slight case of chemical pneumonia. He was out of work for days. Bad cases could land you in the hospital, or even kill you.
- Inhaling fumes or smoke can make you sick.
- White gas is not meant to be ingested. Every time you put it on your skin, or in your mouth, a little of it goes into your bloodstream. Your bloodstream takes it to your liver and it parks there. Forever. Each time you eat fire, a little more builds up in your liver. You cannot process it. Enough of that and your liver will become damaged.
- Fire is not good for your teeth. If you see someone who eats fire for a living, I guarantee you, if they do it long enough, they will end up with nasty teeth. Your enamel is not designed to endure that kind of change in temperature.
- Your gums will recede. Yeah, they don’t like fire and chemicals either.
- Women, this could affect your ability to have children.
So, still want to eat fire?
Getting Used to the Flame
So, you’ve read all my warnings, and you still want to eat fire? Well, first you need to build up your comfort level. All your life, you have been taught to stay away from fire. It honestly goes against every instinct in your body to put fire in your mouth. So you will probably have to get used to this a little.
I recommend starting with palm touches. First, get your fuel ready. Remember, white gas in a small paint can, inside a larger plastic bucket. Have someone near with a safety blanket. Make sure they are paying attention. Soak your torches in the fuel. Take a drink of water. Seriously. You want to be hydrated. Dry mouth + fire = burns.
Take a torch, give it a couple of firm shakes away from any open flame (you don’t want fuel to drip on you, lit or unlit), and light it. I suggest having a candle or lamp or something nearby (not too near to your fuel dump.) Touch the burning wick to your palm, pull it away, and close your hand to extinguish the flame.
Do not panic and wave your hand around. That will just feed the flame. You know, fire + oxygen = more fire. Just close your hand and it will go out.
So, when you are used to that, the next step is tongue touches. How do you do that? Take another drink of water. Yeah, I said another. You seriously cannot drink too much water. Now, here is the important part.
I want you to memorize this. I want you to say it 100 times before you go to bed every night. I want this to echo in your thoughts constantly. What do I want you to remember? NEVER INHALE WITH THE FIRE NEAR YOUR FACE. And how do you ensure that you never inhale with the fire near your face? This is how – ALWAYS FILL YOUR LUNGS COMPLETELY WITH AIR BEFORE BRINGING FIRE NEAR YOUR FACE. If you remember nothing else, remember this.
ALWAYS COMPLETELY FILL YOUR LUNGS WITH AIR BEFORE YOU BRING FIRE NEAR YOUR FACE.
Seriously, it’s that important.
So, are your lungs full? Yes? Good. Now you’re ready for tongue touches.
Tongue touches are easy. There are three steps.
- Stick out your tongue.
- Touch the burning wick to your tongue.
- Close your mouth to extinguish the flame.
See, wasn’t that easy?
Do that until you begin to feel comfortable with having a flame in your face.
If the flame starts getting too hot, extinguish your torch and take a fresh one. Everything on your torch heats up the longer you let it burn, and you will want to swap out fairly frequently.
DON’T FORGET TO COMPLETELY FILL YOUR LUNGS WITH AIR BEFORE BRINGING THE FIRE NEAR YOUR FACE.
Oh, and take another drink of water.
So now we’re actually ready to start eating fire for real. Here’s how you do it.
First, take a dry, unlit torch, and practice a few times, to get a feel for the size of it and the location of your mouth. Believe it or not, once you have a fire in your face, you may forget the exact location of your mouth, so it helps to practice a bit first. Practice the following steps for a while with your unlit torch. Don’t do it with fire until you feel comfortable.
Here are the basic steps to Eat Fire
- Take a drink of water.
- FILL YOUR LUNGS WITH AIR BEFORE YOU BRING FIRE NEAR YOUR FACE.
- Tip your head back all the way, so your mouth is pointing at the sky. Remember, heat rises, and you want it to rise out of your open mouth, not the roof of your mouth.
- Open your mouth wide, but bring the corners of your mouth in. Sort of a fish-lip face. It should feel a little silly. If the corners of your mouth are not in, oxygen will be able to get into your mouth to feed the flame. You want to starve the flame.
- Carefully lower the torch into your mouth without touching your lips or the inside of your mouth.
- Close your lips until they make a small circle around the handle of your torch. Be careful, the handle may be very hot, especially if the torch has burnt for a while.
- Be patient. It takes a couple of seconds for the torch to completely starve itself of oxygen.
- Open your mouth and remove the torch.
- Move the torch away from your mouth.
- Exhale all the fumes and heat out of your mouth.
- Only when the torch is away from your face and you have cleared your mouth of heat and fumes may you lower your head.
I really recommend practicing this without flame until it is all automatic. I guarantee, once you have that fire in your hand, all this information will go straight out of your head. You want to be absolutely certain you will not inhale that flame, or tip your head down with fire in your mouth.
One thing to note, and it may seem counter-intuitive, but you actually want to try to eat the fire quite soon after you’ve lit the torch. The flame may be bigger, and look scarier (and, incidentally, more impressive) but it is actually a much cooler flame than if you let it burn for a while so the flame dies down. Trust me on this one.
And don’t forget, drink water. Respect the flame. Be safe. And ALWAYS FILL YOUR LUNGS BEFORE BRINGING FIRE NEAR YOUR FACE!