The History of F.I.R.E

The Firewalking Institute of Research and Education (F.I.R.E.) has been producing life-changing seminars for over 30 years. In addition to the namesake Firewalking courses, made infamous by Tony Robbins—a graduate of F.I.R.E.—the institute also povides life-changing events through:

  • Attain Any Goal Seminar
  • Overcoming Fear
  • Mentorship by Millionaires
  • Corporate Event Team Building
  • The Power of Focus
  • Hands-On Empowerment Training

Firewalking in Ancient History

Firewalking, an ancient practice, is considered a wonderful example of the mind-body connection at work and a means of demonstrating that we do have control over our limitations. Firewalking has apparently been practiced for centuries by shamans, priests, and ordinary folks as a religious ritual and a healing ceremony.

Prehistoric cultures all over teh world have practiced the ancient art of firewalking and fire dancing rituals. Though no one really knows how old firewalking is or where it began, the earliest known reference to firewalking dates back to 1,200 B.C. The oldest recorded firewalk was over 4,000 years ago in India. Two Brahmin priests were competing to see who could walk further, and this feat was documented in the historical records at that time.

Romans were exempted from paying taxes if they could demonstrate their ability to walk on fire without burning. Kung Bushmen in Africa used fire dance as a powerful healing ritual for their tribe. Their ceremony not only included firewakling, but also rolling on the fire. In Bali, fire dancing is the coming-of-age ritual for seven-year-old girls. The Greek Anastenarides danced on hot coals for hours to honor Saint Constantine and Saint Helen. In Hawaii, there is an indigenous tradition of letting molten lava harden just enough to hold one's weight before walking on it barefoot. Kahuna's also walked on hot rocks to show visitors their "magic." Some tribes in Pakistan used a "justice system" wherein the accused is asked to firewalk. If the accused walks unharmed, they are deemed innocent—otherwise, guilty.

Fire immunity and firewalking rituals have been practiced in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Bumra, China, Egypt, Fiji, Greece, Haiti, Hawaii, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Phillipines, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tibet, and Trinidad.

There is even reference to firewalking in the Bible: "When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned." - Isaiah 43:2 

All of these ancient people and cultures have turned their reverence of fire into ceremonies and rituals to enhance their well-being and communities, understanding that the benefits of firewalking clearly outweigh the risks. Throughout the ages and across the globe, people of innumberable cultures and traditions have been walking on fire. They have walked in community and walked alone. They have walked in silence and walked in an explosion of drums and dance. It took the initiative of a single man to bring firewalking to the modern world.


Firewalking in Recent History

Firewalking remained obscure and mysterious until 1977 when a radical shift occurrred in the evolution of firewalking. Scientific American printed an article that essentially offered the reading public a "how to" guide to firewalking. In the same year of the article's publishing, Tolly Burkan was taught by a friend how to firewalk. Already a public speaker, hosting seminars as a process for expanding awareness, and overcoming fear and limiting beliefs, Burkan recognized that no one was teaching this empowering movement to the public and decided to employ the practice of firewalking into his programs on a smaller scale—ushering in and fathering the firewalking training movement with Peggy Dylan. 

When world-renowned motivational speaker, Tony Robbins sought certification from F.I.R.E. in 1983, a pivotal moment in the movement of firewalking took place. Robbins immediateluy decided that he wanted to teach firewalking and he proved to the a master at publicity. Robbins' firewalking classes were drawing hundreds of people by early 1984. Targeting the celebrity market, many famous Hollywood personalities began walking on fire which fueled mass media attention.

Instructor Certification - 1984

Initially, certification took place over the course of several weeks, involving a caravan of vehicles driving from the southern border of Canada to the northern border of Mexico. Every night they arrived at a different city and taught their seminar. F.I.R.E. realized a new system was needed to make the course more accessible to people who felt drawn to teaching firewalking classes themselves. The new structure simoplified the training process by keeping the training in one place and doing fire walks every single day, sometimes twice a day, for one week. This method offered the best certification available at that time, exclusiveluy through the Firewalking Institute of Research and Education. F.I.R.E. was established as the premier certifying body within the firewalking movement.

Firewalking Explodes in the 1990s

During the early '90s, Tony Robbins had started doing firewalking seminars for U.S. corporations. Firewalking caught the attention of managers and corporate executives as a way to inspire ambition and creativity, and to empower emplyees toward greater achievement. Firewalking had attained a new level of credibility such that people of highly different backgrounds including executives, politicians, doctors, lawyers, professional athletes, and ministers of many different faiths had firewalked. However, Burkan's methods were in need of refinement. Students seeking certification were often in need of urgent medical attendance after his firewalks. Ongoing conflict between Burkan and Peggy Dylan tarnished the spirit of the firewalking movement.

During the 90s, some people who were not certified by F.I.R.E. thought they could go out and teach firewalking classes. The result of their inexperience was disastrous. Their attempts resulted in a number of people being hospitalized. Adverse publicity was generated. Even though over three million people have now safely crossed the fire without injury, thre is clearly an inherent risk to firewalking.

Changing of the Guard - Horton, 2006 - Today

In the spring of 2006, Charles Horton obtained certification from F.I.R.E. Horton, being a very successful entrepreneur as well as a top-rated public speaking with 15 years of experience conducting corporate seminars, had a vision and burning desire to take firewalking to new heights and new countries. Horton was working toward his own Master Firewalking Instructor Certification and found there was no formal or standardized training. At that time, Master Instructor status was achieved merely by referring three instructor trainees or paying an equivalent amount. Horton took action to make his vision a reality.


In April 2008, Burkan and Horton agreed that the international hub of the firewalking movement needed a cdentral location close to an international airport. They decided the new location would be near Dallas, Texas—Horton's estate, complete with a state-of-the-art seminar facility, has been serving as the official home of the international firewalking movement and the Firewalking Institute of Research and Design headquarters. Negotiations ensued and ultimately ownership of the institute changed hands from Burkan's to Horton's.

Horton continues to pursue his vision of F.I.R.E. Certified Master Instructors in every corner of the world with thousands of instructors teaching this empowerment method. With the assistance of his esteemed Master Instructors, Horton's direction has taken F.I.R.E. certification programs to their current iteration. This combined focus has refined procefures to create an unparalleled standard for participant safety as well as create the most comprehensive instructor manual of its kind. F.I.R.E. has since developed the superlative Master Instructor Certification Program which is a notably rigorous undetaking requiring specific advance-level training and extensive seminar facilitation experience.

The magic of firewalking and the discipline of rock-solid business leadership have taken shape in the form of a worldwide firewalking certification network. Horton's vision of the future for firewalking has come a long way. F.I.R.E. now regularly conducts courses in North America, Europe, and Africa.

Since the article in Scientific American in 1977, more than three million people have walked on glowing coals. Never before in history has firewalking been practiced so often and by so many.