Fire Play

Fire FAQ

(by Mammon)

mammon

(Photo of Mammon by Silver Lotus)

First of all it’s true what your mum and dad said – playing with fire is dangerous. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, just that you should remember it is dangerous. The following is advice from someone who has been a fire performer for over thirty years. (I always knew those circus school weekends were going to teach me more than juggling and unicycling!)

There are a couple of laws of science that it’s useful to bear in mind: fire cannot exist without oxygen, and flames burn upwards.

Skin will burn if you hold a flame against it for long enough, but that’s the secret (and skill) of fire play, how long? Two seconds is very exciting, four seconds is very warm and five seconds is the longest I’ve ever managed on myself and I wouldn’t risk it on anyone else unless I saw them do it to themselves.

I usually use fire torches for fire-play (see below) but I usually use four in one session, rotating them two at a time so they don’t get too hot, and making sure the ones I’ve just used get some time to cool down. The flames themselves are not actually that hot (the bigger and more yellow they are, the cooler they are – and the more spectacular they look), but the torches and the wicks can get very hot quite quickly, and that’s what can burn. It is actually safe to put the torch directly and firmly on to the skin, because you cut out the oxygen between the torch and the flesh there is no flame there, and the flames are burning upwards. Just don’t keep the torch in one place for too long. There will be flames at the sides and they can start to burn the skin on either side of the torch.

If the wick is starting to glow red, then it is probably time to put that torch out and use another one. It is possible to use the flame underneath (for instance if they are standing upright and you use it between their legs or under their arms) – just not for as long. In my experience though, you don’t have to do it for very long, the sheer fear and thrill of fire being used on them can have a dramatic psychological effect on someone and for a public SM show it’s very impressive to most watching audiences.

It is worth saying that very minor burns are quite common, but that they are minor (not even like catching yourself on an iron or hot pan).

Hair

Hair burns very quickly and at a very low temperature, so if you’re thinking of using fire to burn hair off, be careful. If the hair is thick it can resemble a miniature forest fire very quickly, and if you’ve seen the scorched earth after a forest fire then you can imagine what might happen to skin. If I’m using fire to burn someone’s body hair away I do it in stages, putting the flaming hair out fairly quickly after it catches. Although it’s a great form of play, I wouldn’t recommend it for smooth depilation (think of the stubble on burnt crop fields).

Flames

As I’ve said, the flames themselves are not that hot from fire torches. However, be careful with smaller flames like those from matches, lighters and candles. Because the wicks or other burning areas are much smaller the flames get hotter much quicker, and they are in contact with a much smaller area of flesh. It is easy to burn in this way.

Fuel

Paraffin is the safest form of fuel, because it only burns on a wick or if it’s vaporised (you can drop a lighted match into a bucket of paraffin and it will go out). I tend to use old-fashioned blue paraffin, but it smells and tastes disgusting and it’s fairly slow to light (which may be an important factor if you want to do an SM fire-show at a club or party). Some people use Isopropyl Alcohol but I think that’s much more dangerous because the vapour is much more combustible than paraffin. I also don’t like it’s toxicology, although to be fair, paraffin is fairly toxic too. If I’m playing in public I tend to add a little lighter fuel to the wick to speed up the ignition – but be careful with lighter fuel, it’s much more dangerous. Fuel lasts a very long time even with regular use.

Playing Outdoors

I’ve only once played with fire outdoors in an SM scene and it was in Spain with no wind. However as a fire-eater and fire-breather I’ve performed outdoors hundreds of time. There are two things to watch for. Firstly, the wind – keep track of which way it’s blowing – you could end up with flames not going where you want them to go. Secondly, the temperature outdoors can give you a false perspective on what’s hot and what’s not. The most serious burns I’ve had have resulted from outdoor shows where the combination of that false perspective and adrenaline meant that I didn’t feel the burns (and the pain) until several hours later.

Fire Torches

Unless you are planning to end your play or show by extinguishing the flames in your own (or your sub’s) mouth, then I would recommend the torches used by fire jugglers. They’re easy to handle, have big wicks and produce a spectacularly big flame. However, if you do want to put them out in your mouth then you’re going to have to have a pretty big one (mouth, that is) to use juggler’s torches – I’ve done it, but it’s not comfortable. I’ve also made temporary wooden ones using dowelling wood and lamp-wick with the wick stapled on, or bound with copper wire. These latter are not ideal, as the wood can burn and the metal in the staples or wire can get very hot indeed. They are okay for a short play, but they have a relatively short life cycle – the lamp-wick frays and the wood burns, so you may have to make a new set every two or three times you play. It’s also possible to get torches now that are specifically made for fire-eating.

Fire Floggers and Fire Whips

My latest toys are a fire-whip imported from the USA (although clever people would be able to make their own fairly easily) and fire-floggers (I have two, one made commercially and the other by a friend). I’ve used them several times now and they are fabulously spectacular. However, they are much more dangerous and unpredictable than torches, and I would not recommend them for newcomers.

If you are looking to torture and cause real pain without any lasting damage, there are probably more effective things to do than use fire. However, if you like drama and showmanship as part of your play then it’s very effective indeed.

[EDITORS COMMENT: Both Mammon and myself have been known to do 'fire play workshops'. IF you're looking to engage in this form of play as a BDSM sport (i.e. upon actual flesh) I would sincerely recommend attending one to learn what you're actually doing first! Message myself, or Mammon via FetLife for more information on the next workshops available we know of or are giving.]

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