I’m assistant stage managing a play called The Arsonists. It’s an allegory about appeasement during World War II; in a town wracked by mysterious fires, two strangers arrive on the doorstep of a well-to-do businessman. As the strangers stockpile gasoline and fuse wire in the attic, the hapless businessman and his wife can’t bear to think they might be complacent in impending destruction. In rehearsals we listen to music about fire, sung by The Doors, Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen and David Byrne. Fire is on my mind, particularly its mythic proportions in the cycle of creation and destruction, and for the purpose of this list, the traditions and careers it informs and influences. Here are five pieces on fire-eaters, firefighters, fire-walkers and fire-growers.

1. “Trial By Fire.” (Dimitris Xygalatas, Aeon, September 2014)

Welcome to San Pedro Manrique. If what matters most is how well you walk through the fire, Dimitris Xygalatas and his team are there to measure how your body and your friends and family are affected by your participation in this extreme ritual.

2. “Fire-Eaters.” (Lauren Collins, New Yorker, November 2013)

Who grows the hottest chili peppers in the world? Lauren Collins investigates.

3. “Fire School.” (Rachel Monroe, The Rumpus, May 2013)

Rachel Monroe intertwines her development as a firefighter and life in small-town Texas in context of the devastating explosion in West, Texas.

4. “Fire Behavior.” (Rachel Monroe, Oxford American, March 2014)

Does tragedy change us or exacerbate qualities we held all along? Rachel Monroe returns, expanding upon the story of Bryce Reed, the West, Texas paramedic whose 15 minutes of fame turned sour.

5. “The Trick is There is No Trick.” (Tessa Fontaine, The Rumpus, July 2013)

To go on the road with the last sideshow in the world, Tessa Fontaine needs to have a special skill of her own: I’d hoped there was some magic involved that meant you didn’t really have to do the thing it appeared you were doing. Maybe there would be a flame retardant solution I’d spread inside my mouth, like on hotel curtains. Perhaps there was a little machine you wore behind your ear that shot fire-squelching foam onto the flame as it approached your face. Maybe the entire act was an illusion. The most disappointing moment was the revelation that there is no trick. How you eat fire is you eat fire.