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San Jose Tony Robbins Event Organizers Defend ‘Firewalk’ After Burns

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Motivational speaker Tony Robbins. (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Motivational speaker Tony Robbins. (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

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SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — Organizers of an event where at least 21 people were treated for burns after walking over hot coals said they have provided hot coal firewalks safely for over three decades.

A statement by motivational speaker Tony Robbins’ organization also noted that 6,000 attendees had taken part in the firewalk, while only a “small number…experienced pain or minor injuries.”

“We have been safely providing this experience for more than three decades, and always under the supervision of medical personnel,” Robbins’ organization said.

The firewalk was part of the motivational speaker’s downtown “Unleash the Power Within” event, which began in the Convention Center around 1 p.m. and lasted until about 11 p.m.

At the conclusion of the event, some 6,000 attendees walked to Park Avenue for what Robbins’ website calls the “Firewalk Experience,” during which they walked over about 10 feet of hot coals, according to San Jose fire Capt. Reggie Williams.

“If there were no risk, firewalking wouldn’t be popular,” according to Tolly Burkan, a self-help author and motivational speaker who says he taught Robbins about firewalking in April 1983. Burkan said he too had been burned by walking on coals before.

Burkan said that firewalking is about overcoming fear, “it teaches you a level of paying attention that you can apply in your life…it’s about learning how to use your inner resources.”

Burkan said he thought it was remarkable how many people had walked over the hot coals Thursday without being burned.

During the event, hot coals were put into 12 separate 10-foot-long, 2.5-foot-wide lanes on the grass. Around 11:30 p.m., the event’s attendees proceeded to walk over them, a process that took about 90 minutes, Williams said.

After the event, 21 people were treated by on-site medical teams for their burns. Three called 911 and were taken by emergency medical teams to the hospital. Those people had second- and third-degree burns, Williams said.

The event organizers had a city burn permit authorizing the coals and a fire prevention inspector was there to make sure no fire occurred, he said.

The cost of attending an “Unleash the Power Within” weekend-long event is between $595 and $2,595, based on information about a similar event in Florida on Robbins’ website.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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