afterburn sectional graphic

AFTERBURN REPORT 2002

Ranger Operations

The Black Rock Rangers continued their long-standing tradition of non-confrontational mediation, of rising out of the dust when needed and fading away when not. This was also a year for changes within the organization. Upper management was completely restructured, to become a consensus committee of five. A new department, LEAL (Law Enforcement Agency Liaison), took on a hybrid role of interfacing with participants and with the outside Law Enforcement covering our event. The whole Ranger umbrella (including Operations, Gate and Emergency Services) reported to the head of the Community Services Department. With all these changes came a year filled with animated meetings, many hours of work and ultimately a very successful event.


Success showed in improved communications between Rangers and other Black Rock City departments, and with citizens. Pre-event cross-departmental trainings paid off, in meetings of the minds and in a peaceable city. With a population grown beyond 29,000, we experienced no major incidents. Participants seemed better prepared and more laid back. Sanctuary, our chill-out space for weary and disoriented participants, went beautifully, thanks to a dedicated crew. “Dirt rangers” on patrol encountered all the usual things we expect to see: dehydrated, lost, confused, intoxicated, sleepy, happy people. The dirt rangers practiced the art of Rangering while riding the edge of chaos, contributing greatly to a successful Burning Man event.

Rangers, volunteers, and DPW worked together to construct a more user-friendly Ranger HQ. In front, we had a large shift-change area with more shade and more lights. Walk-up windows made checkin/checkout much easier. Behind the main trailer was a formal meeting area, also with shade and lights. We had our own drinking water supply for refilling water bottles. Best of all was the burn barrel out front. You could find off-duty Rangers sitting around the fire talking story at all hours.


For 2003 we will improve our process and documentation for checking radios in and out. We had a database for this purpose, but old equipment and the harsh environment caused technical problems and crashes. There are still radios and accessories missing, which is a costly failure.

One of the big problems we tackled in 2002 was that of people driving at the event. We used every tool we had to educate participants pre-event about the hazards of driving in a pedestrian- and bicycle-powered city. We sat in countless meetings designing a system of enforcement that was true to the Burning Man spirit and our new culture of safety. DMV worked hard, hand in hand with Ranger Operations, to refine the rules for licensing art cars for playa driving. It all helped. The playa was freer than ever of non-art cars until Sunday night; but the plan for enforcement was challenging. Rangers are trained to be non-confrontational mediators, not ticket-writing enforcers; and some participants still value their driving lifestyle more than the well-being of other citizens. In coming years we will continue our campaign for a city free from movement of unregistered vehicles. Between creative problem-solving and hard work, we can provide transportation around the city without putting the people in it at risk.


To be a Black Rock Ranger you must acquire a delicate and complex set of skills. Our training programs last year had weaknesses; we found that some of our dirt rangers were not up to speed on all the changes that had taken place in 2002. For 2003, a major priority is to revise our content and delivery to eliminate any shortcomings in the program.

In contrast, our mentoring program, overhauled this year, was successful and effective. Mentoring puts new rangers on at least two patrols with experienced mentor rangers, before they go out on their own. The transition from newbie to dirt ranger on patrol was much less stressful, thanks to the Mentoring team.

This was the first year for Echelon — a new team in Ranger Operations that provides logistics support for the Rangers. Their performance far exceeded expectations; they became invaluable almost overnight. They supported not only the Rangers, but also Medical, Fire, and a host of other groups.

Overall 2002 was a great year for the Black Rock Rangers and the Burning Man organization.

Respectfully submitted by,

Greg Miller aka SeaDog

Click here to read the 2001 Ranger Operations report.