In the last few days, a story broke about 21 people getting treated for “second and third degree burns” after a Tony Robbins firewalk with some 6,000 participants. The president of the Firewalking Institute, which trained me (and Tony Robbins many years ago) has issued this statement about it, and it reflects my thoughts.
Put less dimplomatically than he does: The reporter was sensationalizing when he reported a single number that combined 2nd degree burns, which are small blisters that usually heal completely within a few days, and 3rd degree burns, which are more serious. I might also be overly sensitive given my vested interest, but I have to think that when a witness said “it sounded like people were being tortured” that the witness or the journalist was exaggerating just a little bit for dramatic effect. There is typically loud music and enthusiastic chanting at such events,,, 6,000 voices… and it strains credulity to assert that the witness was able to hear much over the sound of 6,000 people enthusiastically chanting.
I want to know how many, if any, third degree burns there were. Between myself and the instructors at the institute, we have lead several hundred thousand people through the fires, and have not witnessed ANY third degree burns. So, even one is noteworthy. There may have been three, as that is how many sought medical treatment beyond the first-aid booth. If that is the case, I am curious about what went wrong given the extreme rarity of such injuries.
Here is the official response from the Firewalking Institute:
The Firewalking Institute of Research and Education, or FIRE, is a world-class institute that internationally certifies firewalk instructors to the highest standard of safety. We, at FIRE, feel compelled to respond to the media coverage regarding the recent incident involving the firewalk experience at the Tony Robbins Unleash the Power Within seminar in California. Media report that subsequent to completing the firewalk experience, 21 of the 6,000 event participants sought medical attention for second- or third-degree burns.
We can examine the odds, and consider that 21 out of 6,000 equates to a 1 in 286 likelihood of receiving a second- or third-degree burn in this particular event. The lifetime risk of death from riding in a car is 1 in 84, a custom that is seldom given second thought.
The distinction between second- and third-degree burns is critical. Having conducted many firewalks, we have seen no third-degree burns in our participants. We have seen occasional second-degree burns that manifest as small blisters, similar to blisters that are commonly experienced on one’s feet after walking a certain distance in ill-fitting shoes. These blisters typically disappear completely within a few days. We have instructors who have firewalked hundreds and even thousands of times without ever requiring medical attention.
FIRE was not at this particular event, however from previous experience we are confident that Tony Robbins uses the utmost care and responsibility in conducting firewalks. Participants are well aware of possible risks and partake at their own discretion. When facilitated by experts trained to the highest standard of safety, the firewalk experience is very positive and life-changing for most participants. We maintain that, when facilitated properly, the probable benefits of the firewalk far outweigh any potential risks.