I first came across the idea of fire-walking when I was a little child. I was going through a phase of fascination with all things paranormal and discovered an encyclopaedia in my local library detailing many things of a spooky persuasion, including the exploits of certain fakirs, who walked on burning coals. This is me we are talking about, so of course, my seven year old brain thought ‘I bet I could do that’ and yet another desire was born. I had known for ages that our local hospice, St.Michael’s Hospice would every few years hold a sponsored fire-walk to raise funds, but so far I had always missed the announcement and therefore the application deadline. This year however, I was buying our local Observer on a weekly basis so I could keep up with the news on the Hastings Carnival Queen competition, so I did see it. I wasted no time in applying, paid my £10 entry fee and set about raising money.
On the 17th of April, my fiance Elliot and I went to William Parker School where the fire-walk was to take place. I registered and received my participation t-shirt. I could see the fire-pit laid out but not yet burning and began to get quite excited. There was quite a lot going on to entertain spectators while those of us taking part were getting our training/pep talk, so Elliot went off to get a burger and I joined my fellow fire-walkers in the school gym. The training was mostly designed to get everyone hyped up and confident and to lay potential worries to rest. I didn’t really have any worries or doubts about my ability to go through with it, because I had already researched the physics behind the act. Fire-walking is possible because of several things: firstly, by the time the fire dies down to embers, it is mostly carbon and ash, both of which are poor conductors of heat. Secondly, you walk across the embers quickly, so there is no time for heat to transfer (this is similar to the trick where you pass your finger through a candle flame, if you’ve ever tried it) and thirdly, at that time of year the grass is usually damp and forms a moisture barrier on your feet. There is actually an episode of Mythbusters where they demonstrate the effectiveness of the moisture barrier by dipping their hands in molten lead. So unless you stand on the fire, you will not get burnt.
An hour or so later, suitably pepped up by our training exercises, the participants and I exited the gym and assembled around the fire, by now at the preferable state for walking across. There followed some showmanship by the event organisers where they demonstrated the temperature of the fire with heat sensors and then they began sending us across, accompanied by furious drumming by the local Section 5 drummers. I took off my shoes, rolled up my trouser legs and joined the queue. Finally my turn came. The guy running the event asked everyone by turn the same two questions to determine we were ready before they let us go.
“What is your name?” asked the guy.
“Elizabeth Fitzgerald” I answered confidently.
“Are you ready?” he roared at me.
“Yes!” I bellowed back, and walked briskly out onto the burning coals in my bare feet. I felt a cosy warmth beneath my soles and before I knew it, had crashed into the man at the other end who was there to stop people like me who over-enthusiastically carried on charging down the field after we had left the fire behind us. Then I turned around and joined the group of people who had completed the challenge to cheer on the remaining people. One girl even did the fire-walk in her bikini!
Afterwards I joined Elliot, who said it was awesome and then gave me the unfortunate news that none of his photos had come out. They were all blurred from the motion and the amount of ash in the air, so unfortunately I cannot show them to you. I was quite disappointed but I cheered up when the celebratory firework display started up at the end. A week later, I received my certificate in the mail, along with a letter thanking me for the £115 I had raised.
Despite the sad lack of photographic evidence, the whole experience was brilliant and I will always have my memories. I always knew I could do it and now I have proved I can. 🙂