A Burn at the Unburn 2024

Due to unforeseen circumstances, Dragon Burn 2024 was cancelled. This didn’t stop us from camping out for the long weekend, however. A smaller group of us set ourselves up at the campsite and enjoyed a small pop-up Unburn instead.

There were a few groups that decided to set up group camps for the Labour Day weekend. This year I camped with Camp Jamboree – the hippy drum circle camp. A lot of my friends would bring Adrenaland, a techno camp with more of a party vibe.

We managed to bring some of that Burn spirit to the forest. We set up a shared space that we could run workshops in, and a shared kitchen so we could prepare food together. It didn’t quite feel like a full Burn, but we still brought the spirit of it to Anji this year.

One of the things we couldn’t bring this year was the effigy burn itself. We had a fire show in it’s place, and it would close off the weekend before we returned to Shanghai. But we accidentally created another Burn that would be just as memorable. It started during a dinner shift.

We had gas cookers with us that we would use to prepare dinner. We were having trouble with one of them and were trying to get it to work. Suddenly a fireball as there was a small gas explosion. Luckily it wasn’t strong enough to burn any of us, but there was now a fire spreading over the plastic table the cooker was set upon.

I noticed the flames licking a nearby bottle of oil. The plastic was deforming. It was about to catch on fire. I screamed out “OIL!” and one of our camp leaders was quick thinking enough to grab a stick and hit the oil off the table. Some oil leaked out and set on fire, but thankfully the bottle didn’t explode.

We had fire spinners in our camp, so there was a fire blanket nearby. We smothered the fire and managed to put out most of the flames. Unfortunately the gas canister was still leaking and fuelling the fire. We had it under control for now, but we needed a fire extinguisher and we didn’t pull one out of storage this year.

I started running towards Adrenaland to see if they had one, but one of our other campmates was ahead of me. I decided to run to the Campsite’s main shop instead, in case Adrenaland didn’t have a fire extunguisher. Unfortunately it wasn’t until I got there that I remembered I had no idea how to say “fire extinguisher” in Chinese.

I tried to explain using words I knew. “Fire Go Machine”. “Kill Fire Thing”. Anything I could put together in my broken Chinese that might explain. Confused by my poor language skills and mild state of panic they tried to calm me down by offering me lighters. “No, the opposite!”, I said in English, exasperated at this point.

In the end I gave up and ran back to our camp to see if there was anything else I could do. Thankfully it turned out that Adrenaland had been smart enough to pull a fire extinguisher out of storage. I returned to the aftermath, the gas cooker and some cooking utensils covered in fire-destroying chemicals.

Our camp leader’s only disappointment was that nobody took a video of the fire. Of course we didn’t. We were all in panic mode thinking we were going to set the forest on fire. We didn’t get a video. But we did get a few pictures of the aftermath.

I guess these will have to do…

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