On Friday Oct. 18th at 2 PM a small but determined group of people clad in red and orange stood outside the Portland Fire and Rescue building on SW Ash holding torches to protest the newest regulations and fees for fire performances in Multnomah County. The group calls themselves the United Fire Artists of Portland. Protesters chanted as cars passing by on Naito Parkway honked in support.
The new policies, FIR- 3.10, went into effect the first of this year. Event coordinators stated that the event was organized after talks about the regulations between performers and the fire department broke down this June. Fire artist and group organizer, Maquette Reeverts claimed that the new laws place an undue burden on the performers themselves; as only one venue in town, Bossanova Ballroom, has managed to acquire the proper permitting. Shireen Press, a professional fire dancer and fellow organizer claimed that the expanded regulations are “a hassle, expensive and too hard to work around,” for public performances and private gatherings like parties, and weddings. As the gathering wound down Press, Reeverts and others entered the building and had a short conversation with Fire Chief, Erin Janssens, who agreed more lengthy conversation at a later date to discuss the issues.
Press expressed her own dedication to, stating that she and other professional fire artists wished to communicate to fire officials, “that we are just as invested in safety as you are… I don’t want just anybody to be able to do this.” She further explained that as season changes force fire performances inside; trained professionals who make their living putting on safe and professional performances feel the need to challenge laws that are overtly “strict and inaccessible.” She further stated that the United Fire Artists were “feeling pretty good,” about the turnout, community support and outcome of the rally. The Fire and Rescue Department did not respond with any comment about the demonstration.
Press operates a local business called Flamebouyant Productions that offers performance bookings, lessons, equipment and instructional DVD’s for prospective fire artists. Press has been plying her profession since 1999 is supportive of bringing teaching new artists in a professional manner and working in communion with other performers not only in Portland, but from all over the nation. She participates in the annual Pacific Fire Gathering an intimate annual retreat for performers, and aspiring performers on the Oregon Coast at Camp Meriwether Sept. 12th-15th.
Bossanova Ballroom will be hosting Tragic Evolution on Nov. 15th. The performance is 21 and over and will feature a variety of seasonal professional fire artists. According to Nate Wilkins the group’s manager “the show is for Portland fire artists we support the protests, fire artists are one big family… Some of us are professionals and can handle safety precautions.” Wilkins agrees that Portland regulations have become overly strict and are preventing many venues from hosting new events. He pointed out that he, the Bossanova management, and fire inspectors, Michelle Coefield and Rob Cruzer, have all collaborated to keep this show within the current regulations. Wilkins says the laws have become too strict in reaction to the former restrictions “being abused by folks who are not professionals, have not been properly trained and do no planning… We have a nice professional crew.” He believes that those who attend the event, or watch via streaming will be impressed by the quality of the group’s performance “these are worldwide talents.”