A Year After Death, No Fences Expected at Burning Man Event

July 16, 2018

Officials with counterculture festival Burning Man say they won’t install fences around major burns at this year’s event in the northern Nevada desert, nearly a year after the death of a man who ran into flames of a towering wooden effigy.

However, the Reno Gazette Journal reports that Burning Man officials said they will plan other security measures but not fencing for large-scale burns. They include more safety personnel and longer protective barriers of volunteers, said Burning Man spokesman Jim Graham. “There will be no fences at the large burns.”

Scheduled for Aug. 26-Sept. 3 in the Black Rock Desert north of Reno, the event attracts around 80,000 people.

The night after 41-year-old Aaron Mitchell’s Sept. 2, 2017 death, officials surrounded the Temple burn, a typically large-scale burn, with fencing as a precaution.

Mitchell deliberately ran into the fire engulfing a 105-foot-tall (32-meter) Man effigy.

His death was ruled a suicide. Mitchell was originally from McAlester, Oklahoma, but had been living in Switzerland.

The Reno newspaper also reported recently that the Bureau of Land Management, the federal agency that manages land used for Burning Man, would not discuss whether security protocols would be different this year.

“Public health and safety is the BLM’s top priority during the Burning Man event and the agency will not release details from the security plan that could negatively impact their effectiveness,” said BLM spokesman Kyle Hendrix. “Sensitive information from the security plan could be abused if released and has the potential to create additional public health and safety concerns.”

A BLM post-event report suggested that the agency wanted to revamp security requirements for open fire burns. While the Man and the Temple are the largest structures torched on site, a number of other large-scale wooden installations also are ceremonially burned down at the event.

The post-event report listed a number of incidents of concern, including several involving medical care and firearms.

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