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Fire dancer burned during Nevada show facing long recovery

A fire dancer burned during a performance in Pahrump is on the road to recovery, though the road forward could be a bit challenging.

Mark Bolyea, 52, was burned when his costume caught on fire during a performance at a June 8 luau outside the Lakeside Casino and RV Park in Pahrump. He made a public announcement about his condition on his Facebook page.

“This has been devastating and extremely painful as I am temporarily debilitated, which also weighs heavy on me,” Bolyea said. “Eventually, with a lot of hard, painful, rehab therapy, I will likely regain my mobility. The scarring is not so important to me as is being functional and agile. I am super grateful to still have my leg!”

In a phone interview Thursday, Bolyea said he spent 18 days in the burn unit at University Medical Center in Las Vegas and went home to Utah on Wednesday.

Regaining mobility

But that’s not the end of his battle to recovery.

“As it heals better, some of the pain will dissipate, but then I’ve got to work through to get my mobility back … I’m just determined to do it,” Bolyea said. “It’s just taxing. I can’t work. I can’t hardly fend for myself at all. I’ve got people caring for me, friends, luckily, that are helping me.”

The Salt Lake City resident is also facing medical bills upward of $150,000, he said.

Bolyea is out of work and may not return to his job as a handyman. He also does residential painting on top of his work as a fire dancer.

“I just want to be able to support myself, put some more of my better talents to work,” he said. “That part will work itself out eventually.”

For now, he’s struggling through what could be months of recovery.

“It’s going to take something to get back to where I was,” he said. “I don’t care about the scarring. I just want to get my mobility back.”

Mounting medical bills

Bolyea said he has friends helping him with his care. He has to change his dressings twice a day, and he has to travel from Utah to Las Vegas for his follow-up appointments.

With Bolyea’s medical bills stacking up, a GoFundMe page has been started to support him. The address is bit.ly/2KCNarc.

More than $1,200 had been raised as of Thursday on a fundraiser that has a $75,000 goal.

Bolyea, who has been a fire dancer for about eight years, said he plans to return to work as a fire dancer when he’s able.

He works for Hana Studio, of Ogden, Utah. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance by Pahrump Fire and Rescue on the night he was burned.

“He wore a traditional-style costume that included tasseled leg covering from the knee down to his ankle,” the GoFundMe page states. “Although the tassels were sold as flame retardant, the costume item caught fire and engulfed his leg in seconds.”

Bolyea said he was on fire for more than 15 seconds.

“I knew I was on fire for a while,” he said. “I knew I was in trouble.”

Bolyea said when he was running to put the fire out, “I just could feel, like life slows down, time just got like really weird for a minute, and I just knew that I was in trouble … this is going to be a game changer for me.”

According to a June 11 report in the Pahrump Valley Times, a second performer, from another company, was also burned during the show.

That performer was treated and released for minor burns, according to a June 10 statement sent to the Times on behalf of Lakeside Casino and RV Park.

“We are saddened that an event held to bring enjoyment to our guests took this unexpected turn. Our thoughts are with both performers,” the statement read.

No one in the crowd was injured at the performance, according to the Times’ report.

Joseph Cancilla, owner of Hana Studio, said it is not that common for performers in his group to be burned.

“Me, myself, I’ve only had three burns in the last 300 shows that we’ve done in the last three years,” Cancilla said.

“I got burned last week a little bit, then I had a couple of blisters on my hand, and I put this special stuff on it,” he said. “This week it’s healed and functional. It’s kind of the name of the game when you perform with fire. Everyone loves the entertainment, but if you’re going to perform with fire, you’re going to get burned at some point.”

Cancilla has 18 fire dancers in his outfit.

“I’m hoping for Mark’s speedy recovery, so he can get back on the horse and keep performing with us and get back to a functional life,” he said.

Contact reporter Jeffrey Meehan at jmeehan@pvtimes.com. Follow @pvtimes on Twitter.

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