Traditionally, rangers protect life and natural environments. They patrol an expanse of land, and are members of one or more regional communities. Historically, rangers were an alternative to local or federal law enforcement who patrolled vast, sparsely-populated territories (e.g., the Texas Rangers, Arizona Rangers, etc.).
In 1992, Danger Ranger founded the Black Rock Rangers. The Rangers served a search-and-rescue function in the Black Rock Desert before Burning Man had fences or streets, finding lost participants and returning them to their camps. This search-and-rescue function expanded to include life-safety issues in Black Rock City. Since the beginning of the event, the city has grown in size and population. In 1996, several accidents and incidents gave rise to concerns about community safety. One result was the establishment of new community standards in 1997 regarding citizen behavior (especially around motor vehicles and firearms). As the population of BRC grows larger and more diverse, the role of the Rangers is becoming more critical than ever before.
Today, the Black Rock Rangers are a broad cross-section of the Burning Man community who volunteer some of their time in the role of non-confrontational community mediators. They are empowered by the community and the Burning Man board to address safety concerns, mediate disputes, and resolve conflicts when they cannot be resolved by the persons involved. Rangers encourage a community of shared responsibility.
Responding to the ever-changing environment, Rangers address situations within their community that might otherwise require outside intervention. By encouraging and facilitating communication, Rangers promote awareness of potential hazards, from sunstroke to tent fires. Through their radios and shift briefings, Rangers carry the latest information to the citizens of Black Rock City. The Rangers’ primary concern is the safety of people, not property.