Betty Cowger with Out of the Ashes Fire and Flow Arts attended the June 23 CPWB meeting to request a small street closure in anticipation of the group's July 2 performance. / Photo by Monica Zalaznik

Fire-breathers troupe to perform on North Kanawha Street July 2

BUCKHANNON – The Consolidated Public Works Board on Thursday approved a street closure request for a fire troupe performance and gave permission to bury retired American flags at Heavner Cemetery.

Betty Cowger with Out of the Ashes Fire and Flow Arts attended the June 23 CPWB meeting to request a small street closure in anticipation of their July 2 performance.

“We would like to shut that small section of North Kanawha Street, on the corner to the parking lot, past the bar, on the opposite side of the street,” Cowger said. “We would like to shut that section of the street down on July 2 from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. for a performance we’re doing in coordination with the bar.”

She said the closure shouldn’t affect traffic and increases the safety of the event. The Out of the Ashes Fire and Flow group is a fire troupe specializing in fire-breathing performative arts. The Evolution Bar & Grill is hosting them for two performances Saturday, July 2 at 8:45 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

“We do not do pyrotechnics and fireworks; we breathe fire and do performances like that,” Cowger explained. “We actually did the Strawberry Festival parades, we were the fire breathers in the Strawberry Festival parade,” Cowger said. “They will have no alcohol outside of the facility. [The owner of the Evolution Bar & Grill] has signage up for that and she also has a security bouncer for the night who’s going to enforce that as well.”

Cowger said their group always works with local fire departments before a performance.

“It is a very controlled environment,” Cowger said. “We have nothing that is bigger than the city ordinance for uncontrolled burn which is three feet by three feet. Most city, state and federal ordinances do not apply to fire performers because we don’t do large pyrotechnics like fireworks and things, but we do coordinate with the fire chief here in town anytime we’re doing a performance on the street.”

The group also received training specifically for their performances.

“We do everything we can according to the International Fire Performance safety codes, which is the training that all of my group has received,” Cowger said. “They’re very, very focused on performer and crowd safety, and that’s why we are requesting that the street be shut off, just because we can do it without shutting down the street, but it’s safest for us and for the crowd themselves to be able to control that small section.”

The board approved the request for the street closure.

American Legion Post 7 commander Mike Wallace also attended Thursday’s meeting to ask the board if they could bury the ashes of retired American flags at Heavner Cemetery.

American Legion Post 7 Commander Mike Wallace makes a request at the June 23 Consolidated Public Works Board meeting. / Photo by Monica Zalaznik

“There is no specific direction that says, ‘thou shalt dispose of them in this manner,’ but over time, historically, the method has generally been accepted that those ashes be buried at the bottom of a pole that has a flag on all the time,” Wallace said. “I guess you could say it’s bringing it back to where it was, and our request is that we would be able to dig a small hole and place those ashes at the bottom of the pole on the hill (Larry Brown Flagpole Hill).”

He said retired flags are burned respectfully when they cannot be flown anymore.

“When the flag becomes so damaged, tattered, dirty, a variety of things can happen to a flag where it needs to come down and traditionally, that flag is then put into the fire and we retire them,” Wallace said. “We burn the American flag, but we do it with honor and we do it with recognition of what it means.”

The board approved their request for their most recent flag retirement ceremony and gave the American Legion permission to bury the ashes of retired flags in the future.

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