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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 July, 2004, 16:23 GMT 17:23 UK
Website explores dangers of playing with fire
By Jorn Madslien
BBC News Online business reporter

As the fireworks flare across America on Independence Day, endlessly frustrating The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), an equally flaming foe will return to the world wide web.

Trickster with lighter
NFPA: "Every year hundreds are killed as a result of children playing with lighters and starting fires."
The website formerly known as zippotricks.com - famous for detailing 555 daring stunts performed with petrol-fuelled Zippo lighters - will mark the Fourth of July holiday by relaunching under a new name.

The global relaunch, under the name Lightertricks.com, will cause considerable anger, particularly in the US.

Last summer, the NFPA and US senators, who felt the site was encouraging young people to play with fire, called for Zippotricks' closure.

"Every year hundreds are killed as a result of children playing with lighters and starting fires," NFPA president James Shannon said.

At the time, an angry outcry had been sparked by a fire in a Rhode Island nightclub in February 2003 during the rock band Great White's pyrotechnic show.

Morten Kjolberg with lighter
Mr Kjolberg: "It is important to realise that lighter tricks have very little to do with flames."
"The nightclub fire in Rhode Island, in which 100 people were killed, demonstrates again the rapidity of fire's destruction," said Mr Shannon.

Comparisons were soon made with the iconic lighter maker Zippo's own nightclub show which featured professional Zippotricks.com stuntmen showing off their lighter trickery.

Zippo found itself in the hothouse and promptly decided to pull the plug on the project, even though it did not accept that the trick website was doing any harm.

"Federal agencies pressured us to shut it down due to [perceived] hazards with the tricks," a Zippo spokesperson told BBC News Online.

Commercial venture

At the time, Zippo warned that closing down Zippotricks would simply drive a long-established fan community underground.

Which it did.

Lighter
Eye-to-hand coordination is crucial for tricksters.
When Zippo, which owns the domain, closed down Zippotricks, the website's founder, Morten Kjolberg, retained the ownership of both its concept and content.

He instantly got to work to revive the tricksters community's main online platform.

"So far, this has only been possible because we've had a rich uncle in America," Mr Kjolberg tells BBC News Online, referring to Zippo's backing.

In fact, Zippo was obliged to continue pushing cash Mr Kjolberg's way for a long time after it doused Zippotricks.

"We had a contract which covered 'X' number of years and which included an exit clause, and this has kept me going," Mr Kjolberg says.

And although Lightertricks stunts are exclusively carried out using Zippo lighters, Mr Kjolberg insists his latest venture is not a sneaky way of promoting Zippo lighters.

"It might seem like adverts for Zippo, but equally Zippo might see the site as a burden," he says.

Indeed, when asked to comment on the launch of Lightertricks.com, the Zippo spokesperson appears loath to comment, beyond stressing that "Lightertricks.com is not an associate of ours".

Playing with fire

With Zippo no longer in the picture, "the question is; how can I make profits from this", Mr Kjolberg says.

Lightertricks hopes to make money from DVD manuals for potential tricksters, by launching a Chinese website and nightclub show, and by selling adverts on the site.

The site has a clearly defined audience of young men aged between 17 and 25, so it should be of interest for advertisers, Mr Kjolberg says.

He is not concerned that Lightertricks.com might be subjected to a similar kind of wrath that broke the back of Zippotricks.com.

"The criticism raised against the lighter trick concept was blown completely out of proportion and the comparisons made with the nightclub fire were outrageous," he says

"Also, I think this venture is quite different because now there is no major US backer," Mr Kjolberg says.

Trickster with lighter
Lightertricks.com targets young men aged between 17 and 25.
This time there should be less to criticise, he insists. "I have learnt a lot from what happened, so there is a much greater focus on safety."

So much so, he even lets the elder of his four children play with Zippo lighters. "My oldest son who is 11 is currently considering whether he should focus on football, the guitar or lighter tricks," he says.

"It is important to realise that lighter tricks have very little to do with flames. It has much more in common with, say, skateboarding or other trick-based sports.

"The act of performing tricks with a Zippo lighter is about eye-to-hand coordination, not setting body parts aflame as some of our critics seem to think."


VOTE RESULTS
Is it irresponsible to promote lighter tricks on the internet?
Yes, fire kills
25%
No, it is innocent fun
75%
5222 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

Vote now closed


SEE ALSO:
Zippo burnt by trick critics
26 Aug 03 |  Business
Lawsuit filed over US club fire
05 Mar 03 |  Americas
Zippo flares over Disney cartoon
20 Jun 02 |  Business


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