What does a fire breather do?

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What is a Fire Breather?

A fire breather is a skilled performer who incorporates fire into their act, either by exhaling a spray of fuel over an open flame to create a controlled burst of fire (fire breathing), or by extinguishing a flame by placing it into their mouth or swallowing it (fire eating). These acts, often seen in circus performances or street shows, require careful training, safety precautions, and the use of non-toxic and low-volatility fuels.

It should be noted that what fire breathers do is highly dangerous and should be undertaken only by professionals with proper training and experience.

What does a Fire Breather do?

A fire breather at a circus.

Fire breathing is a combination of entertainment and spectacle, artistic expression, and cultural heritage and tradition. Here’s a breakdown of what fire breathers do:

  • Fire Breathing – Fire breathers create controlled bursts of fire by exhaling a spray of fuel over an open flame. They use non-toxic fuels like paraffin or lamp oil. Fire breathing requires precise timing, coordination, and proper technique to ensure safety and create impressive fireballs or fire streams.
  • Fire Eating – Fire eaters use specially designed torches or wands that are lit on fire, and extinguish flames by placing them into their mouth or swallowing them. They must be skilled in fire manipulation, controlling the flames, and performing with precision to prevent injury.
  • Performance Preparation – Fire breathers spend time preparing for their performances. They do exercises to maintain their lung capacity and overall fitness. They ensure their equipment, including fuel containers, torches, and safety gear, is in good condition. They inspect the performance area for potential hazards, communicate with event organizers about safety measures, and set up their equipment before the show.
  • Safety Measures – Safety is paramount for fire breathers. They take precautions to minimize risks associated with fire manipulation. This includes practising in well-ventilated areas with proper fire extinguishing equipment readily available, wearing appropriate protective clothing, maintaining a safe distance from flammable objects or materials, and consistently being aware of the potential risks to their respiratory system and skin due to exposure to heat and chemicals.
  • Performance Execution – During a performance, fire breathers showcase their skills, incorporating fire breathing, fire eating, and other fire-related techniques into their act. They captivate the audience with their ability to control and manipulate fire, often combining their performances with elements like dance, acrobatics, or storytelling to create an engaging and memorable experience.
  • Continuous Training and Skill Development – Fire breathers dedicate time to training and refining their techniques. They continually improve their skills, explore new ways to incorporate fire into their acts, and may collaborate with other performers to expand their artistic repertoire. Ongoing training is crucial to maintain safety, improve performance quality, and push the boundaries of their craft.

Types of Fire Breathers
Now that we have a sense of what the fire breather does on a typical day, let’s take a look at some different specialties and types of fire breathers:

  • Multiple Fire Streams – Fire breathers who specialize in multiple fire streams have mastered the ability to expel and control several individual streams of fire simultaneously.
  • Fire Sculptors – Fire sculptors use their breath and manipulation techniques to shape and mold the fire into specific forms or patterns. They create intricate designs with the flames, showcasing their creativity and precision.
  • Fire Dancers – Fire dancers incorporate fire into their dance routines. They may use fire poi balls (swinging fire balls), staffs, fans, or other fire props. Fire dancers often combine choreography, acrobatics, and rhythmic movements to create visually captivating performances.
  • Fire Manipulators – Fire manipulators are performers who use handheld fire props, such as fire staffs, fire swords, fire fans, or fire hoops, to create stunning visual displays. They spin, twirl, and manipulate these props, often incorporating dance and acrobatics into their routines. Some fire manipulators may attempt to demonstrate pyrokinesis, the purported psychic ability allowing a person to create and control fire with the mind.
  • Theatrical Fire Performers – Some fire breathers specialize in incorporating fire breathing into theatrical performances. They work on integrating fire into storytelling, character portrayals, or specific themes. Theatrical fire performers often coordinate their fire breathing techniques with other elements of the performance, such as music, choreography, and props, to create a cohesive and engaging experience for the audience.

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What is the workplace of a Fire Breather like?

Fire breathers can work for a variety of individuals, organizations, and events that seek to incorporate fire entertainment into their programs. The following are among their most common employers:

  • Entertainment Companies – Fire breathers are often hired by entertainment companies that specialize in organizing and producing live shows, concerts, festivals, events, and performances. These companies may have a roster of fire performers whom they hire for various gigs.
  • Event Planners – Event planners who organize corporate events and special occasions, such as weddings, birthdays, or themed parties, may hire fire breathers.
  • Circus Troupes – Fire breathers are frequently employed by circus troupes and circus-themed shows, to perform alongside acrobats, jugglers, and other circus acts.
  • Nightclubs and Bars – Fire breathers are sometimes hired by nightclubs, bars, or entertainment venues to perform and enhance the atmosphere of the establishment. They may perform on stages, dance floors, or designated performance areas within the venue.
  • Festivals and Carnivals – Many festivals and carnivals feature fire performances as part of their entertainment lineup. Fire breathers may be hired to perform solo acts, collaborate with other fire performers, or be part of larger fire shows that incorporate music, dance, and visual effects.
  • Film and Television Productions – Fire breathers with specialized skills may be employed by film and television productions that require fire-related stunts or performances. They may be tasked with creating visual effects or play specific roles in action scenes or fantasy settings.

It's important to note that many fire breathers are independent contractors, hired on a freelance basis for specific events or projects. Some may have their own performance groups or companies and directly book their services for various engagements.

The workplaces of fire breathers can vary depending on the specific context in which they perform:

  • Outdoor Venues – Fire breathers often perform in outdoor venues such as parks, gardens, or open-air stages. These settings provide more space for fire manipulation and allow for larger fire displays, as well as larger audiences.
  • Indoor Theatres and Performance Spaces – Fire breathers also perform in indoor theatres, auditoriums, and performance spaces. These venues offer controlled environments with proper lighting, sound systems, and seating arrangements. Indoor performances may require additional safety measures and precautions due to the enclosed nature of the space.
  • Nightclubs and Bars – These settings often create a more intimate and immersive experience for the audience. Fire performers in such venues must be mindful of the smaller space and adapt their routines accordingly.
  • Film and Television – In these settings, the fire breather’s workplace can vary widely, depending on the requirements of the scene or storyline. It could be a specially constructed set or a real location transformed for filming purposes. Safety precautions are paramount on film sets, and fire breathers must adhere to strict guidelines and work closely with the production team.
  • Circus Tents and Big Tops – Fire breathers who are part of circus troupes or touring shows may perform under circus tents or big tops. These iconic venues create a classic circus atmosphere and provide a designated space for various circus acts, including fire performances. Circus tents can be set up in different locations, allowing fire breathers to perform in various cities and countries.

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Fire Breathers are also known as:
Fire Blower Fire Spitter Fire Eater