Fire-walker gets cool reception

Vancouver author performs feat for book, publisher edits it out

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

Published:

 
photo“I took the first step, and my foot sank up to my ankle.” Jeff Davis Author who made his own fire-walking pit at home (unknowingly over a rodent burrow) in 2008 and took a hot-coal stroll for a photograph

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There might have been a bit of pain when Jeff Davis walked on burning coals as part of writing a book.

Davis got a blister after walking on coals a second time, so the publisher could have video for its website.

Do you want to know when Davis really felt burned?

When the publisher didn’t include any fire-walking material in the book or online.

In “Weird Washington,” the Vancouver historian and co-author Al Eufrasio rounded up more than 250 pages of odd, whimsical and spooky happenings from our state.

Davis discussed a few of those journeys to Washington’s weird side during a First Thursday program at the Clark County Historical Museum.

For one item, he researched a 1997 fire-walk near Redmond in which the coals hit a record-setting 1,800 F.

Davis had lots of good information in the item — the participants used a leaf blower as a bellows — but the publisher needed a fire-walk photo.

So Davis made his own fire-walking pit at home in 2008 and took a hot-coal stroll to provide the required photograph.

Did it hurt?

“Yes and no,” Davis said.

People have been doing this sort of thing for a long time, relying on everything from faith to focus to physics, and Davis pushed all those buttons.

But he didn’t realize that he’d set up the bed of coals over a rodent burrow.

“I took the first step, and my foot sank up to my ankle.”

Davis was struck with the immediate realization that he really wanted to be somewhere else. However, “I would still owe them a photograph,” he said.

He completed the walk and sent the photo to the publisher, then got another assignment. If he did a second fire-walk while somebody shot video, Davis could keep the camera.

After the second walk, “I had a small blister the size of a dime, and a few small white spots like you get when you touch a hot oven rack,” Davis said.

Fire is out

When the book was published, the only mention of fire-walking was in the mini-biography Davis had to write for the dust jacket. That confused a lot of readers and left Davis wondering, “Why did I do this?”

Davis eventually was able to answer that question. He did it for personal growth.

There is something enriching about overcoming one of mankind’s most deeply seated fears, he said. It’s overriding the sharp warnings of every mother who ever lived in every language ever spoken: “Don’t touch that! You’ll burn yourself!”

Davis calls fire-walking “something three people out of 100 would do,”

Then, he did it again and again and again: five times in all.

So it turned into an exciting new chapter in his life, if not in his book.