Firefighters from all over the state converged in Long Beach this week for three days of comprehensive training on how to play with fire.
Generally, firefighters fight fires, as the title might suggest. But on Thursday, rather than treat fire like their age-old nemesis, they reveled in the many spectacular incarnations of the feared element.
When mothers or fathers punish their kids for playing with matches, this is the sort of thing they’re trying to forestall—the specter of their children growing up and escalating their fascination with flames until they turn the world into a crimson hellscape of heat and smoke.
Thursday was the final day of “study” at the Long Beach Convention Center, much of which consisted of Powerpoint presentations and book-larnin’, rewarding the students with an unbridled, though somewhat disappointingly safe, explosive orgy of pyrotechnics and other good ways to lose a hand, keying mainly on the flammable effects used in filmmaking and celebrations, all led by fireworks guru Eric Elias, who has arranged and led pyrotechnical extravaganzas at the Hollywood Bowl for 40 years without ever once losing a bassoonist.
The demonstration, held in the convention center’s elephant lot, ran the gamut of fire’s greatest hits, from sad little safe ‘n’ sane fountains and sizzling fuses—things you can try at home—to gigantic balls of flame and a stunt man being set on fire—things you shouldn’t try anywhere under any circumstances unless you’ve passed this course allowing you to become a Motion Picture Fire Safety Officer, as accredited by Cal Fire.
Whenever a film company is shooting on location, a Fire Safety Officer needs to be on site, said Long Beach Fire Department spokesman Brian Fisk, who is also a Special Events Officer for Long Beach who works on the numerous film shoots in the city.
The Thursday demonstration, said Fisk, provided information about what sorts of chemicals provide the correct sorts of effects in filming, from the color of smoke they provide to the extent of the fireballs produced and how best to control them and ensure they’re being used in a safe manner.
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