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2022 Video of Flames at the Burning Man Festival Recirculates

Wesam Abo Marq Wesam Abo Marq
6th September 2023
2022 Video of Flames at the Burning Man Festival Recirculates
The video shows flames at the 2022 Burning Man Festival (Twitter)

The Claim

A video shows flames at the Burning Man Festival.

Emerging story

After the recent Burning Man festival, social media users widely circulated a video purporting to feature a fire tornado at the festival in the U.S.

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Misbar’s Analysis

Misbar investigated the video and found the claim to be misleading.

No reliable media outlets published the circulating video. A thorough reverse image search revealed the video making the rounds to be outdated and has no connection to the 2023 Burning Man festival in the U.S.

The Video Shows Flames at the 2022 Burning Man Festival

Contrary to the claim, the video does not feature flames at the recent festival. The video dates back to the 2022 festival.

Similar videos featuring the same incident were published on YouTube on September 2022, during the festival at the time. USA Today published the video under the title, "Fire tornado swirls out of Burning Man flames."

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A screenshot of the USA Today’s video (YouTube)

Another YouTube channel also uploaded the video on September 7, 2022.

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A screenshot of the Storyful News & Weather video (YouTube)

The 2022 Burning Man Incident

Strong gusts of wind transformed the flames at the main event of the nine-day Burning Man festival on September 3, 2022, in Black Rock City, Nevada, into swirling columns of fire and smoke. The primary ritual of this annual festival involves burning a large effigy of a man, according to the Burning Man Project. 

The National Weather Service noted that powerful winds led to dust blowing at the time, and event organizers cautioned attendees about the resulting "whiteout conditions" before the main attraction. A shared video shows the flames and smoke swirling as the effigy burns.

Moreover, the current situation at Burning Man is in stark contrast to the challenges faced by attendees in 2022. Media outlets published images showing an exceedingly muddy environment, which is the complete opposite of the conditions necessary for fire tornadoes to occur. 

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An aerial photo of the 2023 Burning Man festival (CNN)
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A photo shows mud due to heavy rain at the 2023 Burning Man festival (CNN)

What Is the Burning Man Festival?

Burning Man has been an annual tradition since 1986, when Larry Harvey and his friend Jerry James constructed an impromptu wooden figure, which they then transported to Baker Beach on the Summer Solstice. They set it ablaze, drawing a curious crowd to witness its fiery transformation.

Burning Man is a festival that is often described as "a global ecosystem of artists, makers, and community organizers who co-create art, events, and local initiatives around the world." Its name is derived from its main attraction, the burning of a large wooden structure known as "the Man" on the second-to-last night. The festival strives to be an indescribable experience, falling somewhere between a celebration of counterculture and a spiritual retreat. During the event, individuals known as "burners" typically arrive in groups and establish themed "camps," where they actively contribute to the festival's "gift economy" by offering goods or services without expecting anything in return.

The 2023 Burning Man Festival

This year, the Burning Man festival was scheduled to take place from August 27 to September 4. The festival is located in Black Rock City, a temporary community established in the heart of the Black Rock Desert in northwestern Nevada. 

Unexpectedly, more than 13mm (0.5 inches) of rain fell at the festival site on Friday, causing disruptions to the celebration. For the Reno area, the average rainfall for the entire month of September is typically only 5.4mm (0.21 inches), as noted by Mark Deutschendorf, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in the city. 

Road closures were implemented just before the scheduled burning of the festival's massive wooden effigy on Saturday night. Organizers announced that all burning activities had been postponed and that authorities were working to open exit routes by the end of the Labor Day weekend.

Furthermore, there was a reported death at the festival. Officials in Pershing County stated that the deceased individual was in their 40s, but the cause of death was not disclosed, and an investigation is currently underway. 

As the festival was closed to motorized traffic, attendees had to navigate through mud, with many going barefoot or using plastic bags to protect their feet. Revellers were also encouraged to conserve their supplies of food and water, and most chose to stay put at the site. However, a few managed to walk to the nearest town or catch a ride there.

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