Stockton Represents at Burning Man 2018

For ten days in the High Desert outside Gerlach Nevada, ten Stockton Firefighters volunteered their time and skills to help make Burning Man 2018 a functional city of 80,000 people.  In order for the Bureau of Land Management to allow Burning Man to take place, they require an infrastructure similar to a regular city. There is a Fire Department, Police Department, Public Works, Commissary for all volunteers (probably about 5000), Entry/Exit Gate workers, Sanitation Division, Water Supply, Ambulances, and even a full-blown Hospital.  Almost all of these departments are staffed with volunteers, who, in turn get a free ticket.

Craig Young, Mike Smith, Don Tafgen, Sean Hidalgo, Ralph Lagana, Sean Morrison, Josh Fraga, Jason Silva, Daniel Vucinich, and myself.. T mo, were fortunate to assist with filling out the Fire Department side.  Every day we ran 2 Engines and a Squad which served as a Heavy Rescue and HazMat vehicle. The rigs were staffed with 3-4 volunteers from Fire Departments across the United States. Over 100 people comprised the fire division of the operation. Stockton had the most members from one department, and as always, we made our mark.  The Chiefs appreciated our professional background and put us in positions of responsibility. 

While the stories you have heard about Burning Man are likely to be a never-ending range of depictions, I can tell you I describe it as “Organized Chaos”.  There are defined streets, specified medical stations, Ranger stations (police), recycling centers and places to buy ice (only ice, coffee, and lemonade are available for purchase – everything else is based on a gifting society). There is even a functional airport which is the second busiest airport in Nevada for those days. On the other hand you will see and experience things that are indescribable and just plain crazy.

As you roam the streets you can stop by any camp, make new friends, partake in food and beverages being offered, participate in a variety of classes or play on adult sized playground equipment. Once on the Playa (the center of it all) you will find world class art that is later publicly displayed around the world. The Man, which is always burned on Saturday night and The Temple where people go to get closure on people, places, or events (more of a somber place) are in the middle.  The Temple is burned on Sunday night.  Roaming the Playa you will see thousands of people on bikes and hundreds of “Art Cars” that range from a Suburban sized Pac Man to the front half of a 747 Jet.  Most of the larger apparatus, as big as double decker buses, are mobile DJ’s with sound systems that makes your heart find a new rhythm.  Each have displays of laser beams and propane fed fire bombs that will envelope you. Mobile parties are happening all week long! Search “Burning Man” on YouTube and see for yourself.

While this all seems like a weeklong party…. ok.. it pretty much is,… volunteering for fire shifts is taken very seriously. If you don’t show up, or don’t show up in a capacity to work, you will be sent away and not be invited back. Our group is well respected and we are proud to represent our Department and Profession across the region. Craig Young has been going for 7 years and the rest of us have 3 years or less. Craig serves in the Chief ranks and some of us were Lieutenants and Division Leaders for the burns. 

As much as this event is hard to describe, it is an epic experience.  I encourage everyone to give it a shot, or just enjoy the videos.  Look past the dust, look past the heat, look past the sheer craziness of it all and everyone will find something that will make Burning Man a poignant moment in life.

 Tony Mo