Strange fires are happening everywhere: California, Europe, and Burning Man.

Somehow, this morning, the giant effigy at the center of Black Rock City — the site of the Burning Man Festival in the Nevada desert — went up in flames this morning at 3 a.m. This is the "Man" I’m talking about, the one that burns at the end of the event on Saturday. The neon — and this year, for the first time ever, solar-powered — creature that you orient yourself with to find your way home … he’s gone.

Burning Man burns
(photo: Focal Intent, via Flickr)

The totally eclipsed full moon was still bobbing in the sky like an aerial orange Sweetheart, and everyone I could see around me was staring up at it. Few people noticed the Man smoldering until he was truly engulfed in flames, and then everyone ran over, laughing and screaming and incredulous.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Early rumors on the Playa suggested a short in the neon that lights the man, but I’m thinking they’re less accurate than reports that indicate arson — I talked to several people who were under the Man in the "Green Man Pavilion"when they heard fireworks; one guy claimed to have seen a man crawl up to the structure and set it on fire. Two rangers I talked to said that at least one person is in custody. We’re awaiting an official statement from the Org as I write.

Meanwhile, you can see it for yourself: Dan Garcia’s photo of firefighters hosing the blaze are here.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

So much for that post I was preparing today about all the solar-powered art. And all the massive, gas-burning flame-throwers. I’m sort of relieved the Burning Man organization hasn’t taken this Green Man theme to some crazy extreme. We’re still squandering resources aplenty.

More on this later.