World Record Firewalk
July 2, 1998
"You're gonna walk on what?" That was the reaction most people gave me
when I told them that Dai and I were going to be part of a group
attempt at a world record firewalk. Once I explained, they still
thought we were a bit nuts, but they were interested.
What was first envisioned to be a semi-private event, grew once the
story broke over the AP. It grew into something that toward the end,
seemed to have a mind of it's own. Media,
deadlines, new people and
just for fun, a personal stressor, all added to the merry mix. A
special thanks to the BBC, ABC and the Discovery Channel for their help
in reducing some of that personal stress.
In the beginning, we were thinking of having the walk at a neighbor's
farm. As things progressed, the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
was generous enough to allow us to burn a 165 foot strip on their
campus. Thanks UPJ!
The firebed before lighting.
It took Dai, Michael McDermott and Kent Reichersamer six days to
gather, haul, cut and split the approximately eight cords of wood
needed to construct the 165 foot firebed. Thanks to Terry Chrissy for
lending us his log splitter. Michael built the firebed so that it would
have plenty of airspace and room for the shredded paper. This special
construction allowed the firebed to burn down evenly.
This part always makes me nervous.
Once the bed was set alight, I was very glad the fire truck was there.
We didn't need it, but I've never seen a wall of flame that big. It was
comforting to know they were only a few yards away. The picture above
shows what happened to the distance markers that had been painted onto
the field when the wind shifted. Quick thinking Dr. Uldis Kaktins put
people to work as markers instead. Yes, he waited until the fire died
down. Turned out we didn't need markers. All 17 Walkers made it the
entire length on their first attempt.
At this point, I was asking myself,
"You're gonna walk on what?"
Most of the Walkers took a turn at
tending the firebed.
Wooden extenders were added to the handles of the metal rakes and
shovels. Even with them, standing too close to the radiating bed was
more than toasty and sure had all the Walkers wondering how they'd fair
over the distance.
When all was said and done the firewalk was a success. I think most
people, the Walkers and the Spectators, came away feeling the walk was
worthwhile. The whole event was an adventure I know I won't forget.
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