Playa Restoration | Special Forces

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Playa Restoration is divided into two specialized teams: Line Sweeps Division and Special Forces.

The line sweeps walk the city streets, arms length apart in groups of 30 with their well trained MOOP eyes that can spot a single sequin, wood chip or piece of carpet fuzz on the open playa. But when they find something that’s too BIG, too gross, or there’s just too dang many of it, they raise their MOOP stick to flag an oscillator to “cone it”. Taking a few minutes to cleanup what they can, then they walk-on, and keep the line moving. Special Forces will come in for the kill. “Killin Cones” is what these self described “Cone Killas” do.

resto-009Wee Heavy raises his MOOP stick to alert an oscillator of a ‘hot spot’.

resto-010The Line Sweeps’ oscillator Eff’n Andy drops a traffic pylon on a ‘hot spot’.

So, who is special forces and what does it mean to be a ‘cone killa’ anyways?
Special Forces Manager Phoenix Firestarter breaks it down for us.

resto-022Phoenix Firestarter surveys the rapidly vanishing city for any remaining cones.

“Special Forces is a group of satellite vehicles that address dropped cones laid by the Lines and Oscillators. After the area has been restored, the cones are removed in an action that is affectionately called “Killin’ Cones”. The Special Forces members often refer to themselves as “Cone Killas”. Each vehicle carries 3-5 people and is outfitted with special tools to remove MOOP and restore the affected areas. After the general morning meeting held on the playa in which everyone is briefed on the MOOP Map results of the past day and the actions that are to take place that day, the Special Forces meet over the MOOP map to discuss their game plan.”


“Every morning the vehicles are loaded up for the tools necessary for a day’s work. Landscape rakes, magnet rakes, round and square nose shovels, T-stake and cement stake pullers, brooms, 5-gallon buckets, and 50 gallon bins.”

resto-016A Special Forces satellite crew lead by Barbarella rolls out to a hot spot.

“There is an excitement when arriving at a cone, as it could be a vast array of MOOP possibilities.  Is it glass? human feces? embedded astroturf? Will it take one vehicle or many to get the job done? The variety keeps things quite interesting, and always keeps us on our toes. ”

resto-028Duck Hunt discovers hidden two-by-fours embedded in a dune while Phoenix annotates the ‘hot spot’.

“When we arrive at a cone we asses the situation, what’s on the ground, how much of it there is, how widely it’s distributed and the conditions of the playa, all determine how it’s removed. We plot the point with GPS, write a description of what was found, and take photos if we can, as sharing that information with the camps is the best way to educate participants.”

resto-002-2Jeremy hoists a magnet rake bountiful with hidden MOOP treasures. Photo by Phoenix Firestarter.

“Magnet rakes are a very important tool for the removal of nails, staples, hardware, and other metallic items. Every year we wish there existed rakes that attracted wood, glitter, and glass in a similar manner. ”

resto-001-4Individual pieces of safety glass from a broken car window will be picked up by hand to prevent unnecessary removal of playa. Photo by Phoenix Firestarter.

resto-006-2Special Forces crews uncover a piece of Man Base buried in ash and playa. Photo by Phoenix Firestarter.

This year kept Special Forces on their toes, with inclement weather forcing an evacuation of the playa for several days, just a few days before the looming BLM inspection required to renew the events annual permit.

“It’s important to keep our sights on the big picture, to ensure that we complete our cleaning process by the time the BLM inspection rolls around. ”

resto-008-2Each cone represents a host spot eliminated by the Special Forces crew. On this day, 3 teams of 2 busted 150 cones before lunch. Photo by Phoenix Firestarter.

resto-014Crews fair a dust storm just moments before the playa is evacuated.

“The Special Forces, in my opinion, seems to be made up of the people that revel in the act of seeing a job to its completion. On the lines we were never satisfied with bypassing a site to be left for someone else to pick up. We were the ones always falling behind because of our attention to detail and drive to see a job through. We were the moonwalkers that saw something shiny about six yards away and abandoned our position in the line to go after it. On Special Forces we are able to put our passion and stubborn ways toward addressing those very situations, and we are able to have a satisfying feeling upon their completion.”

A big thanks to Special Forces and the entire Playa Restoration effort for the passion they dedicate to restoring the playa and dissapearo-ing Black Rock City, insuring the BLM Inspection Passed and confirming Burning Man’s reputation as the world’s largest leave no trace event.



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