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Fire walking - Helen Fisher

03 March 2014
Fire walking - Helen Fisher

When I said I was going to do a fire walk, people asked me ‘why?’ – I just thought it was easier than jumping out of a plane (people do that for charity)!

The oldest recorded fire walk took place in India over 3,000 years ago and evidence of fire walking has been found on every continent except Antarctica. From the shamanic Hawaiian Kahunas walking over red hot lava to the healing ceremonies of the Kung Bushmen of the African Kalahari desert, the act of fire walking still forms a key religious and spiritual practice of indigenous people the world over.
Most people have said ‘rather you than me’, some that I’m brave and others that I’m mad – so with a week to go, I was questioning my sanity. However, it’s great when I get an email to say that someone’s donated online. People have also given me cash and cheques – it’s a real boost to know that people are supporting me – even if they’re not always cat lovers (but most are).

The big day arrived and it was time to leave – as suggested, I took wet wipes to clean my feet after the fire walk. I got to the venue - a city farm in the heart of the East End. The Cats Protection organiser was there – and 2 well-fed farm cats came to say hello – which I thought was fitting, considering I was doing this mad thing for their less fortunate friends.

Now it was motivational time: there were about 12 of us all looking rather nervous and uncertain – what had we let ourselves in for? 

A combination of materials are burnt and broken down into a smooth red hot path of embers. The lane itself is between 15-20ft long and 2-3ft wide and when it comes to doing the walk, the fire lane burns at a core temperature of over 1000° degrees Fahrenheit -  human skin will start to burn at 130° degrees Fahrenheit.

The instructor told us (if we didn’t know already) that fire walking is potentially dangerous – but he also told us why it’s possible – a combination of 3 things:

  • Physics
  • Speed
  • State of mind 

Physics, the science bit – there are good heat conductors like water and poor heat conductors like wood and coal. Although the fire lane is really hot (the understatement of the year), the feet cool down the area they touch, and it takes time – seconds, for energy – heat, to flow from the rest of the fire to the cool spot where your feet are. You can sometimes see dull orange footprints in the coals right after someone walks on them.

- if you don't stay in contact with the coals very long, you won't get burned i.e. don’t linger. If the instructor thinks you’re going too slowly, he said he’d put a gentle hand in the hollow of your back to hurry you along. I saw him do that with a man who obviously thought he’d be all cool and calm – but there was no need for him to do that with me! 

State of mind – you need to be in a positive state of mind to have the courage to step into a potentially dangerous situation, even knowing the theory.

This is where the motivational part comes in, we had to do visualisation and vocalisation exercises. During the workshop I heard a sound outside which I thought was clapping – but the instructor said it was the licking of the flames (very scary).

The time had arrived, we went outside and saw this lane of flames – I didn’t expect actual flames – why didn’t I expect flames? I’d heard the licking of the flames - it’s a fire walk! OMG – why am I doing this?

But the fire and flames were necessary to make sure the temperature had reached the optimum level. We all gathered along the fire lane – it was extremely hot and smoky. The coals were then raked so that the flames were contained to the edge, leaving burning red hot embers in the middle – this was our walking route.

Now it was my turn  – we were told to punch our fist and say ‘yes’ for every step we took, apparently this helps with the timing – but all this went out of my mind when I stepped onto the fire lane – I didn’t run (that would be bad on a physics level) but I certainly didn’t hang around! Done – it was all over too quick – I could have done it again! No burnt feet or blistered toes, just very black sooty feet – good job I took along the wet wipes.

I don’t at the moment have a photo which shows me on the fire walk, but I do have a photo of the fire lane with flames – and I’ve a certificate to acknowledge that I walked completely barefoot over hot coals.

Thanks to all those who’ve donated so far; as of 2 March I’ve raised £338 with a further £50 pledged – I wonder if I can reach £500 in total?

Apparently, on average, 20% of donations are given after the event – so don’t think that you’ve missed out – feel free to donate:

  • Text donations to 70070 and quote CPCP50 or
  • Cheques payable to Cats Protection and sent to Treasurer, Cats Protection, 5 Preston Drive, Ewell. Surrey. KT19 0AD – and mark the envelope/note ‘Fire walk’

·       Or cash!