World’s Biggest Fire?

We’ve just been contacted by Burner Lise, who’s a little butt-hurt that we described Norway’s giant 130-foot high Midsummer bonfire as “the world’s biggest burn”. The flame measured a “mere” 135 feet, and one brave soul lit it from the top.

She insists that their 2007 Burn in Slovenia was even taller, at 142 feet:

slovenia burnFrom fire breathers to Mother Nature, the element of fire has set an assortment of world records…
…In celebration of Labour Day, a bonfire with a volume of 60,589 feet cubed was constructed by SKD Mladi Bostanj and lit on April 30, 2007 in Bostanj, Slovenia. The bonfire was also more than 142 feet tall  qualifying it for the [tallest] bonfire in the world on record. 

It ‘slovely. Apologies to the Lovely People of Slovenia, we never meant to cast aspersions about the size of your penis festival!

Their bonfire celebrated Labor Day, also known as the Feast of Ba’al. In American ritual ceremony Labor Day is the weekend of Burning Man. The occult nature of our Wicca burn is preserved on America’s Labor Weekend, by the pentagon pentagram that contains it.

14_theme_manBurning Man’s highest Man+Base to date has been (officially) 2011, when the height was 104 feet. Will the flames rise above the new baseless Man, more than 38 feet from its top? It’s arguable, I don’t think so. The Man’s arm raises up in a Nazi-style one handed salute, fireworks go off, then the structure burns and collapses on itself.

This year’s “Craven Ass Eerie” theme is a throwback to Mans of old, before there were themes…when there was no base and the Man stood his own ground. Can you climb up it? Can you slide down it? No-one knows but the Gamemasters:

How high will the Man stand without a base? Before, it has been around 40-feet tall. It seems unlikely that it will be 170 feet+ tall. How high do the flames go? Well, how does anyone really measure?

Lift your game and lift your flame, Burning Man! 

In 2007, Burning Man had the largest ever structure burned, the  amazing “Crude Awakening” Fire. The platform itself was 99-feet high, Christopher Lawrence played on it. Burner estimates claim a 300+ foot fireball. Wired claimed the flame as 1000 feet high, above the 100-foot platform.

bonfire 2007 sloveniaThe brains behind the tallest structure ever built at Burning Man plan to produce the tallest fire ever seen at the event as well — a 1,000-foot column of flame, primed by 900 gallons of jet fuel and fed by 2,000 gallons of liquid propane. Its creators hope this massive flame will send a powerful message about the oil economy.

The piece is called Crude Awakening. It’s the brainchild of Bay Area artists Dan Das Mann and Karen Cusolito. Its collaborative execution brings together eight different artists who have previously received art grants from Burning Man, and involved the help of 180 different people.

The centerpiece is a 99-foot-tall wooden oil derrick that was receiving final touch-ups Wednesday afternoon, including the completion of the steps inside that allow attendees to climb to the top.

To the left of the derrick stand eight metal sculptured human figures, most of whose surfaces are made of connected metal rings, each designed with their own different participant-activated fire effects via propane tubing. The statues are 540 percent of the size of a normal human. Some are standing, hands waved in supplication; many prostrate in various ways. All of them, Das Mann says, emulate the prayer posture of some religious tradition.

The piece is meant to dramatize the worshipful relationship and dependence modern man has toward oil. The idea occurred to the married couple during their honeymoon in India two years ago, and fit in with this Burning Man’s environmentally minded theme of “Green Man.”

The piece’s fruition comes in a performance Friday evening, to be aired live on Current TV beginning at 10 p.m. PST. At its climax, four different containers at each corner of the tower will shoot a total of 900 gallons of jet fuel (given away by NASA as unusable for its purposes, Das Mann says) to engulf the top of the structure in a huge fireball.

Seconds later up the center of the derrick, 2,000 gallons of liquid propane in a pipeline stretching out to the derrick’s right will shoot out at once through a remote-control 5-inch pneumatic ball valve. The piece’s creators figure this should create a 1,000-foot-high column of flame.

The detonation of the piece will create 2.4 gigawatts of energy, which Das Mann and Cusolito say is enough to “power the entire Bay Area for one minute.”

The artists realize that it might seem indulgent to burn so much fuel for art meant to dramatize our warped relationship with fuel. They understand those concerns. But they stress the personal conservation efforts about environmental and carbon impact that working on the piece created in all the 180 people involved, which they expect to continue.

The fuel the piece consumes only amounts to an ounce or so of fuel per attendee at the event, they note. Cusolito, who says she is thought of by her friends as somewhat of an “environmental Nazi,” says she thinks of Crude Awakening as if “all the energy I have not consumed by living the way I do, it’s almost as if I get credits” to use the fuel to “make the biggest environmental statement I could make in my lifetime.” The pair hopes the message will reach far beyond the 45,000 or so who might see the finale at Burning Man.

Das Mann and Cusolito stress the massively collaborative nature of the project, including fire work from Donya Parkinson and Joe Bard of Pyro Kinetics, and Mark Perez’s carpentry work on the derrick, among many others.

I guess the Guinness Records crew weren’t there that day…

Do fireballs count? Or is it the height of the sustained burn that’s important? What do you think, Burners? Did Slovenia beat us, and Norway too? Or does Burning Man reign supreme in the Fire God Wars?

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