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Behold! Incendia, a fire-spitting dome and music experience

When you’re watching the traditional fireworks display and toasting a champagne flute this New Year’s Eve, know that somewhere else in metro Atlanta, people are dancing under a bonfire mounted upside down on a ceiling.
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? Think Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, just with six domes and fire flowing out of the top of each one. Add a DJ booth, some programmed lights, plus almost a thousand pounds of propane, and you have Incendia. The traveling event venue started in Athens, Ga., and consists of five 20-foot domes strategically placed around a 50-foot dome made of aluminum rods, supplying partygoers with all the sound, sights and heat they expect on the last night of the year.
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? CL sat down with Cory Glenn, the founder of Incendia, to talk about his upcoming NYE event “Fire in the Sky” in Conley, Ga., on the outskirts of Atlanta and the inspiration behind his mobile-party venue.
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? How did you come up with the idea for Incendia, and how long did it take to go from concept to completion?
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? We built the effigy for Alchemy a couple of years ago and, through working on that project, we discovered this phenomenon of fire aversion — where fire is trapped beneath an object and prevents it from rising. When it prevents it from rising, it tends to create a really cool, slow motion rolling effect. We found, later on in experimentation, that it also casts a lot of heat and light downwards when you do it in a controlled fashion with propane. We transformed the effect from an uncontrollable wood burning fire trapped beneath a ceiling to a captive propane flame trapped beneath a steel ceiling. And it was reproducible. We could dial it in, manipulate it a little bit better and set it up in an mobile application when we mounted the ceiling.
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? About two years ago, when I was devising this step up in scale from this small prototype to the big installation you see now, I spent a month or two in Morocco over the winter time. I was very awe struck by their architecture and all their interior-design elements. The deco and all of their ornate lighting effects — everything about that culture I really loved — played a significant impact in a lot of the aesthetic elements that Incendia has now adopted.
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? I spent the whole flight home drawing different iterations of the logo you see now. Even the star logo is derived from Moroccan culture because their flag features a five-pointed star. Everything from the lanterns to the color schemes, and the logo aesthetics are all derived from Arabic culture and, particularly, Moroccan.
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? How do the pyrotechnics work?
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? Pyrotechnics generally implies the use of solid fuels, like fireworks. What we do is working strictly with propane, so it's not technically pyrotechnics. It would really be considered flame effects. There's a very distinct difference when you get into regulatory situations, permitting, and insurance.
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? But if you ever watch a fire and notice how it is always rising because hot air is less dense than cool air, it always wants to shoot upwards. If you can obstruct that path upwards and contain that upward draft beneath a non-combustible surface, you're able to slow that draft and create an undulating, slow-rolling flame that travels outward instead of upward. There are a lot of finer details in tweaking it, but that's basically how it works.
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? The most complicating factor in what we do is trying to use as much propane as we do. We use propane very rapidly. Whenever you're cooking steaks on a grill, you don't encounter the same challenges we do with our propane tanks freezing, and trying to distribute gas in an even and controlled manner. There's a lot of mechanics behind the curtain.
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? Is it hard to get operating permits in Georgia and other states?
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? Insurance and safety management are significant costs of our overhead. It's a very essential aspect of what we do. We don't spare any expense ensuring that what we do is as safe as possible for everybody involved. Maintaining a high level of safety is not only good for us as a business, it's good for the industry as a whole.
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? Some places are easier to operate in than others. Location, location, location — it really depends where you are. Luckily, in the Atlanta area and the state of Georgia, authorities are relatively permissive.
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? The most difficult places to set up are in downtown areas. Higher population density areas are always the most difficult. New York City would be the Fort Knox of doing any sort of fire performance. We've operated within the state of New York, but not within the five boroughs yet.
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? What does it take to set up and how much propane does Incendia use?
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? When we set up our full system, it can be up to 7,000 to 8,000 individual pieces including: bolts, nuts, washers, pipes, fire ceilings, propane systems. Just the domes themselves weigh about two tons. There's over a mile of aluminum tubing to create the full system and it takes about two days to set up with a crew of about five to 10 people.
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? People may assume what we do leaves a very high carbon footprint, however, for us to run our full system for an entire night creates about as much carbon dioxide as one person's seat on a flight across the Atlantic. Your standard grill tank is 20 pounds. One of our small domes, to run a whole night, will take about five of those. And our full system will burn about five grill tanks an hour.
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? Why should people come out to Fire in the Sky?
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? Since starting the company, we've expanded into other avenues of production. We're now adding in elements of audio and video stimulation. It's a whole experience now. It's not just the fire. We program lights to do things specific to being mounted in a dome. When you come out to be with Incendia, it's a complete sensory experience. You're going to encounter an atmosphere like nothing you've ever seen before. You will experience fire like you've never seen it. While our domes may be outside, and it may be the dead of winter, we guarantee you won't be cold.
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? What’s next for Incendia?
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? We're still busy paying off start-up debt, but in the future it's my hope that Incendia can contribute to green-energy initiatives. I'd like us as a society to reduce the use of, and preserve what's left of, our fossil fuel resources for applications where there really is no viable alternative, like Incendia. We're also working steadily to target the corporate market. We want to do more high-end private events. We love doing festivals, but we feel like Incendia should be for everyone. There are plenty of high-end cars that would look great under our fire. I won't be happy until everyone experiences it at least once.
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? This Q&A has been condensed and edited for clarity.
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