Nearly two dozen people were treated for burns on their feet after walking on hot coals during a motivational seminar conducted by self-help expert Tony Robbins in San Jose, California, local media reported.
Firefighters treated at least 21 people for burns to the soles of their feet, several of them second- and third-degree, on Thursday night, according to a report in the San Jose Mercury News. At least three people went to the hospital, although none of the injuries was life-threatening, the report added.
It was the first night of the motivational seminar called "Unleash the Power Within," a four-day Robbins event attended by some 6,000 people, the Mercury News reported.
Close to midnight after the event, participants walked to a park where 12 lanes of hot coals measuring 10 feet by two-and-a-half feet lay on the grass, the newspaper reported.
"I heard wails of pain, screams of agony," one of the attendees, Jonathan Correll, 25, told the Mercury News.
One woman seemed to be in so much pain "it was horrific," he added.
"It was people seriously hurting, like they were being tortured," the newspaper quoted Correll as saying. "First one person, then a couple minutes later another one, and there was just a line of people walking on that fire. It was just bizarre, man."
Phone calls to San Jose fire and emergency officials were not immediately returned, and Robbins could not be reached on Saturday through his media contacts.
In a written statement reported in the Mercury News, Robbins Research International defended the "firewalk," a regular part of the Unleash seminar.
"We have been safely providing this experience for more than three decades, and always under the supervision of medical personnel ... We continue to work with local fire and emergency personnel to ensure this event is always done in the safest way possible."'
Indeed, others who walked on hot coals said the experience was extraordinary.
"Overcoming something like that, it's a breakthrough," Henry Guasch, 19, told the Mercury News. Guasch added that he got a minor burn when he slowed his pace in the middle of the field.
Guasch and another participant, Andrew Brenner, told the newspaper that faith and concentration were the keys to not getting singed.
The firewalk is presented on Robbins' website as a way to conquer fears and "other fires in your life" by walking across a bed of coals heated up to 2,000 degrees. It is not a requirement of the seminar.
Nevertheless, the San Jose Fire Department did not recommend people engage in the activity, Capt. Reggie Williams told the Mercury News.
"We discourage people from walking over hot coals," Williams said.
It was unclear how many people participated in the firewalk.
Considered one of the world's most successful self-help experts for nearly three decades, Robbins oversees an empire of self-empowerment seminars, books and tapes, life coaching and motivational presentations.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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