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How Boise State Keeps The Fires Burning At Football Games

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Troy Oppie
/
Boise State Public Radio
Technicians fire 'flame effect' devices as Boise State football takes the field on November 16, 2019.

This past September, pregame introductions for an NFL game between the Colts and Titans were interrupted by a fire on the field.  

  

Video from The Tennessean is dramatic: a malfunctioning flame effect machine throwing a ten foot stream of fire sideways on the sideline of the Tennessee Titans Stadium, just as the game was about to start.

According to the Tennessean, the NFL banned all flame effect or fire devices from its stadiums while an investigation into what went wrong was conducted. That investigation was completed in late October. It showed multiple points of failure for the device and procedure. 

Multiple NFL reporters have said flame devices still have not returned to the NFL stadiums they visit. Team representatives deferred comment on the issue to the league office and refused to say if the ban was still in place. Requests for comment from the NFL communication office were not returned.

At Boise State, crowds cheer a 20-foot high flame that fires as the team takes the field at every home game. Tom Mroz is Idaho’s Chief Deputy Fire Marshal. He oversees code and safety at Bronco games, and watched that video from Tennessee.

“It was like, ‘Oh my gosh, could that happen here,’” Mroz said. “Accidents happen, but we’ve taken all the necessary safety steps to ensure the safest show possible."

Those steps included adding fire blankets, additional extinguishers and increasing from one operator for each device to two. 

Mroz explained that the safety features and procedures of the equipment used at Boise State were reviewed after the incident in Tennessee.

"The steps we’ve taken to ensure it doesn’t happen here are very concise,” he said. “We feel good about what we have here.”

The devices used locally are different than the one that malfunctioned in Tennessee. They don’t look like much from the outside — a wood box painted black with the ignitor device on top of an eight foot pole — but the insides are a completely different story. Built by a company in Las Vegas, they cost nearly $7,000 each. 

On the field, the devices are operated by a third-party company contracted by Boise State. Including the pyrotechnics operators on the roof of the Bleymaier Football Center, it’s a crew of seven.

After unloading, equipment is tested for leaks, test-fired, and operators practice emergency procedures.

They were not allowed to do interviews, but confirmed they had seen the report of the malfunctioning device in Tennessee and use a very different setup.

“The equipment,” Mroz said, “it’s relatively all brand new this season.”

Boise State Athletics did not make anyone available for an interview, but a spokesman said they rely on the advice of the State Fire Marshal when using flame effect and pyrotechnic devices. 

And, at least for the moment, Boise State can claim it’s bringing more fire than anyone in the NFL.

For more local news, follow the KBSX newsroom on Twitter @KBSX915

Copyright 2019 Boise State Public Radio

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