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Working A Burn

A week at SNRG: Nevada's Regional Burning Man Event

Working A Burn

What does this mean? What in the hell is a “Burn”?

It’s not a controlled range fire…but it does involve controlled fire (a LOT of controlled fire, and fireworks, and explosions…in this case, pretty damn BIG explosions!).

Let me start with my own, somewhat controversial definitions.

A “Burn” is the hellfire child of the Mother of All Burns: Burning Man – That Thing In The Desert (TTITD). A yearly gathering (during the Labor Day weekend, currently in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada) of more than 70,000 people, artists, partiers, hippies, “Alt” culture mavens, divas and the simply curious. Black Rock City is built from nothing, much of it burns to the ground in an orgy of sound and fire, then is cleaned up. Since it’s a policy for all Burns to be “Leave No Trace” events…the goal is to never even be able to tell anything even happened once the smoke has cleared.

Since not everyone has the money, desire, time or ability to attend TTITD, smaller “Regional Burns” have sprung up all over the world. Each adheres to the “Ten Principles“, but has their own take and flavor. Their environments play a large part, culture adds to distinctive vibe, and the individuals in charge help steer the overall vision of each, unique Regional Burn.

Personally, Julie and I have never attended “The Big Burn” (TTITD, Burning Man) and don’t have any immediate plans to do so. We like the Regionals, especially our “Home” Regional: Element 11.

This year we responded to a request for staffing assistance at Nevada’s Regional Burn: SNRG. We went, why the hell not! Friends had helped out in years past and had good things to say, and this year they were at a new venue! We had to arrive early (so we could get set up and do our own work), which is something we enjoy–watching things build up and burst in the frenzy of the Event itself. Plus it allows us time to acclimate…which was important this year since the temperatures in Beatty, Nevada reached 123° F!

So there’s the background…

Rangers at Night

Hardest damn thing to describe…”What is a Ranger?” or “What in the hell does a Ranger do?” Well…let’s go to the “official” definition.

The Black Rock Rangers are the core infrastructure for the community during the event. Their strength comes from the diversity of backgrounds and experiences; they are communicators, medics, firefighters and concerned citizens. Rangers are the mediators of public safety and providers of information.

I don’t like this definition, but what the hell…it works. Rangers are the people who walk/drive around and talk to people, take the temperature of people at the event, make sure all is well, occasionally mediate issues. But mostly we spread good will and help people in need (pass out water, electrolytes, give directions, etc.). And we work Perimeters.


Structures (Effigies, Temples, Art) is built then burnt to the ground. The Rangers stand in a perimeter to keep spectators at a safe distance (these things burn hot, often have ordinance, collapse is strange ways, etc.). Another type of Ranger stands behind the perimeter to stop any spectators who get past the first line of Rangers. We are called Sandmen…and our sole job is to try to save lives.

Wait…people actually try to get to the burning things?

Yes. It happens very rarely. If they are not stopped, they die or are seriously injured.

Enough about that…

Working A Burn At Night

I prefer working my shifts at night; 4-6 or 8 hours in the dark…sometimes sundown to sunup. It’s much cooler, and the dynamic is incredible. The art is alive, lit up, people are having a good time and wandering, the music is blasting. I fade in and out of the Theme Camps, I sit atop ridges and watch. I listen to my radio, monitoring traffic and calls in case I’m needed. I suck it in like a shadowy sponge. Sometimes I take my camera and snap pictures or set up long, intricate time-exposures. I have conversations with artists and bartenders. It’s the best time to interact and, usually, the best time to be a Ranger.


If you’re wondering, it’s not all work. Yes…in three days Julie and I worked about 24 hours plus our Day jobs. But remember, we were there all week. Even though the town of Beatty, Nevada is tiny it does have a few good places to eat and some interesting sites! Since both of us love Urban Decay, Ghost Towns and Ghost Hunting we took a side trip to Rhyolite, Nevada – a “curated” ghost town. It was a little disappointing. But we’ll include it in an upcoming podcast along with all the Burn stories we’re allowed to tell (we do respect privacy!).

I promise, despite privacy, it will be entertaining! A lot of cool and funny shit happened…as it always does at a Burn.

And it’s a perfect prelude to Element 11…which is only a few weeks away! We run a “Theme Camp” and will have our own “Art Car” (Pro-Tip – READ THESE! I wrote one of them…they’re entertaining.), so many adventures, stories and mayhems shall ensue! Plus our traditional “Playa Edition” podcast…which is a drunken orgy of snark, bad-behavior, baby-eating fun!

Stay tuned, enjoy and travel safe!

-CL & J

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