Burning Man Set on Fire Early Due To Arson

Burning Man

Burning Man

Wow, this is a shocker. At around 3 am Tuesday morning at Burning Man 2007, during a rare lunar eclipse, the Burning Man sculpture was set on fire prematurely (it is normally burned on Saturday). The Black Rock City Emergency Services Department was able to put out the fire in time and salvage the sculpture (it had not yet been loaded with fuel or explosives). It is still scheduled for its normal burn on Saturday and they will be working throughout the week to repair any burn damage and re-install the neon.

UPDATE: They plan on re-building the man, complete with neon within 72 hours.

The early burn is being investigated as arson (there are reports a man armed with a propane torch starting the fire). According to the Reno Gazette-Journal, authorities have already arrested one person. Another source says that the man was set ablaze early due to an electrical problem when they turned the neon early for the lunar eclipse. Burning Man organizers hope to have more information later today.

Here’s an announcement from Burning Man regarding the fire:

Black Rock City Emergency Services Department units responded from Stations Three, Five, and Nine and put the fire out within approximately 23 minutes. There were no reported injuries. The Man is still standing, and an assessment is underway to determine the structural integrity of The Man and the Green Man Pavilion. The event will continue as scheduled.

An arson investigation is currently under way, and is ongoing. There is no confirmed cause of ignition at this time.

No further information is available at this time. More information will be released tomorrow morning after the investigation can safely be concluded.

UPDATE: Paul David Addis, a San Francisco based artist and performer, was arrested in connection with the arson.

Daniel Garcia and Brad Templeton have some photos of the fire and the attempts to put it out.

Here’s some blog and media coverage of the premature burn:

“Burning Man set ablaze today; one arrested”
Carla Roccapriore, Reno Gazette-Journal

“Burning Man being rebuilt after damage from premature fire”
Leslie Griffy, San Jose Mercury News

“The Man burned on Monday”
Daniel Terdiman, CNET News.com

“Burning Man’s Premature Ignition”
Brock, SFist

“The Man Preburns”
Kirk Kahn, Lime Wire

“The Gonzo burner”
Tim Redmond, San Francisco Bay Guardian

“Burning Man’s icon goes up in flames, 4 days prematurely”
Joe Garofoli, San Francisco Chronicle

“Burning Man will be rebuilt; arrest made”
Carla Roccapriore, Reno Gazette-Journal

“Burning the Man With Hunter S. Thompson”
Lou Carbon, 10 Zen Monkeys

“Arson of The Man at Burning Man!”
The Jaded Gay DJ, SFScene

“Burning Man burns too soon, man charged with arson”

“Man arrested in torching of Burning Man effigy”
Associated Press

“Burning Man '07: Arson! The Dude got burned early”
Summer Burkes

August 29, 2007
Morgan Webb, WebbAlert

“Burning Man is burned too soon – arson arrest”
Joe Garofoli, San Francisco Chronicle

“Man Down”
Wanda Power, Building Black Rock City


“More on The Man who Burned The Man at Burning Man”
Xeni Jardin, Boing Boing

“Thoughts on the Burning of the Man”
The Jaded Gay DJ, SFScene

“A Heated Q&A With the Prankster Accused of Burning the Man”
Miyoko Ohtake, Wired

“Paul Addis: We’ve Got the Closest Thing Yet to His Confession”
Miyoko Ohtake, The Underwire, Wired

“The Neon Smiley Face at Burning Man 1996”
Scott Beale, Laughing Squid

“Why I’ve Got No Sense of Humor about Arson in Black Rock City”
Brad Hicks, The Infamous Brad

“Suspect in Burning Man arson decries event’s loss of spontaneity”
Joe Garofoli, San Francisco Chronicle

“Paul Addis — Hero or Pariah?”
Eli Milchman, The Underwire, Wired

“Addis on ‘American Dream’ on acid”
Steven T. Jones, SFBG Blog

“Paul Addis, attention whore or terrorist?”
Eddie Codel, jibber jabber

“[You Only Burn Twice]”
Ron Garmon, Los Angeles CityBeat

“Burning Men, Part One: Chaosmos”
Erik Davis, Techgnosis

“Burning Men, Part Two: The Order of Things”
Erik Davis, Techgnosis

Burning Man

An image of the burn from the live video stream of Burning Man at center camp.

UPDATE 1: Reports are coming in that the damages to the Burning Man sculpture are too extensive, so they are planning on building a new one within the next 72 hours which will be “officially” burned on Saturday. The Green Man Pavilion, the building below the Burning Man sculpture, was not seriously damaged in the fire and the demos of green technologies will still take place once the structure is repaired.

Early Burning Man

Death Guild Sign

Danger Ranger has uploaded post burn photo and a photo from the Death Guild at Thuderdome who are denying any responsibility for the premature burn.

UPDATE 2: I have confirmed through several sources that it was in fact arson.

UPDATE 3: Joe Garofoli from the San Francisco Chronicle has reported that the person arrested in connection with the arson is Paul David Addis, a San Francisco based artist and performer. Paul is being held in the Pershing County Jail in Lovelock, Nevada on charges of arson, possession of fireworks, destruction of property and resisting a public officer.

Paul Addis

Recently Paul played the role of Hunter S Thompson in his one man show Gonzo, A Brutal Chrysalis, which opened in San Francisco and is currently scheduled to tour the west coast starting next month.

Back in 2002, Paul wrote an letter to the editor of the SF Weekly in response to Lessley Anderson’s “Burning Spin” article on Burning Man.

UPDATE 4: Current TV has posted video segment on the premature burning of the man as part of their coverage of the event on TV Free Burning Man. The report includes footage of the fire and subsequent damage to the sculpture, interviews with Burning Man organizers Marian Goodell & Andie Grace and some eyewitness reports from the scene.

For the man, his number was up at 2:58 AM on August 28th, as “The Burning Man” met his maker early at the hands of an arsonist. His demise was met with heartfelt cries by onlookers exclaiming “Save the man, it’s not his time”. For the thousands that gather annually in Black Rock City, NV to take part in the “Burning Man” festival, this was a sad moment, but festival goers promised to carry on.

UPDATE 5: Carla Roccapriore of the Reno Gazette-Journal has a follow-up on the arrest of Paul Addis, complete with one of the most surreal mug shots of all time.

Paul Addis Mug Shot

UPDATE 6: In the comments, John let us know about a new craigslist listing: “For sale. One Burning Man. Slightly charred”

UPDATE 7: I just spoke with Chris Radcliffe who is currently in Portland and he said that he has paid the $3200 required on a $25,632 bond for Paul’s release, but they have not let Paul out yet because he is refusing to give his name to authorities.

UPDATE 8: Chris Radcliffe has spoken with Paul who is now out on bail.

UPDATE 9: They are now removing the old, charred Burning Man effigy.

Removing Burnt Man

UPDATE 10: At Tuesday night’s Media Mecca Happy Hour, the featured cocktail was the “Hunter S . Thompson” and Mr. Clean informed the media that the new man will be up by Thursday night, complete with a new set of neon.

UPDATE 11: Lou Carbon at 10 Zen Monkeys has just posted their take on the situation: “Burning the Man With Hunter S. Thompson”

UPDATE 12: LOLburn, you knew it had to happen.


UPDATE 13: A fund has been setup for Paul Addis at freepauladdis.com to help recover the money spent to bail him out of jail as well as his ongoing legal expenses.

UPDATE 14: Reports are surfacing that during Burning Man 1997, Paul Addis hung a pair of giant silver testicles from Burning Man’s groin.

The Duck greets the Man

UPDATE 15: Wanda Power has posted about the early burning of the man on the Building Black Rock City blog.

UPDATE 16: Burning Man has posted a press release to their website, replacing the previous update that was up there.

Contact: Tom LaPorte, Media Mecca


(Black Rock City – August 28, 2007) The Man at the center of Black Rock City will be rebuilt after an overnight fire which damaged the effigy at the center of the Burning Man event. Rebuilding is expected to take about two days.

Black Rock City officials say there was structural damage to the figure of the Man, but relatively little damage to the art and exhibits at the base of the Man. No injuries were reported.

An arson investigation is underway, and one arrest was made shortly after the fire was set. No charges have been announced, and the name of the suspect is being withheld. There has been no discussion of motive in the episode.

“We have the means and the will. The event continues on schedule, and the Man will burn on Saturday night,” said Andie Grace, Communications Manager for Burning Man LLC.

A perimeter has been established around the scene, but event organizers say it is likely that participants will be permitted to visit the pavilion while the rebuilding is underway.

This is not the first time the Man has required rebuilding. In 1990, the Man was accidentally cut up with a chain saw while in storage prior to the event. It was fully rebuilt in time to be transported to the desert.

Burning Man annually attracts as many as 40,000 participants in the last week of August. The climax of the event is the burning of the effigy on Saturday night.

UPDATE 17: DPW is currently in the process of installing the 2nd, newly constructed Burning Man sculpture.

UPDATE 18: Paul Addis, the man accused with torching the man, just sent us this statement from his safe house in Fernley, NV. He says that he had planned on doing this way in advance and tried to make sure that nobody would get hurt.

Hi, folks. This is the *alleged* arsonist/douchebag/attention whore himself, writing you from Fernley, NV, where I have been chilling out for a couple of days.

Having read your various comments, a few things should be addressed. First, this operation was extensively planned well in advance, and the number one thing to Black Rock Intelligence was that NO ONE be hurt. If you people actually knew us, you’d know that we have an extensive background in doing things exactly like this. In fact, we were on the ground for some thirty minutes before ascent, scoping the scene and clearing people in order to minimize any possiblity of injury to others. We were aided by several people who were recruited on the playa the night of this burn (BRI has no idea who they are, so don’t bother asking).

Second, the operation was planned in conjunction with the lunar eclipse because Black Rock Intelligence knew that another event at the trash fence would draw the bulk of lunatics to it, rather than to the Man. In fact, one of our peripheral operatives aided in getting as many people to the fence event as possible to help BRI achieve its goal of zero injuries.

Third, word went out across the playa days in advance that Black Rock Intelligence was pulling this op. This word continued to go out right up to the moment that our chief operator began the arduous climb up the guide wire. As you can all see from the results, BRI performed flawlessly in this regard.

We could give a fuck less what you all think of us for doing this. Most of you are newbies who have been drawn in by the semi-religious nature of the event, or maybe just the easy drugs and easier sex. You have nothing to offer the event other than your fucking money and obedience. You spend the rest of your lives in mortal fear of everything that insurance companies tell you to fear, and pretend that you’re free and clear because you spend four days at a desert bacchanal where spinelessness is not only encouraged but genetically replicated for implementation in successive generations. In short, you are the swine of which Thompson spoke. Get over yourselves.

Some of us live quite well without fear. Doing so requires the ultimate in what Burning Man used to represent: personal responsibility and individual liberty. That’s all been lost in the last decade of Burning Man’s history. Consider this operation a history lesson that was desperately needed.

One final note: Black Rock Intelligence has been permanently disbanded. All other operatives have made the ultimate sacrifice by swallowing their L-pills to avoid being captured alive. I am the sole surviving member of BRI and ask that you respect my mourning period for those who gave their lives so that this operation was a complete success.

Paul D. Addis
Fernley, NV

UPDATE 19: Justin Berton over on SFGate is reporting on a suicide that took place this Thursday morning at Burning Man. On Friday Justin posted a follow-up on the suicide.

Kitten Calfee sent us a statement regarding the suicide at Burning Man on Thursday morning. He was part of the Comfort & Joy theme camp where a man decided to end his life by hanging himself.

UPDATE 20: Miyoko Ohtake has published “A Heated Q&A With the Prankster Accused of Burning the Man” on Wired.

In both “exclusive” interviews, Paul talks about the Black Rock Intelligence organization that he referenced in the public statement he issued on Thursday.

UPDATE 21: Tuesday’s premature immolation of Burning Man has been awakening many of the event’s old-timers. Kevin Evans, who was part of the original crew who helped bring Burning Man to the Black Rock Desert in 1990, has uploaded a bunch of great photos from Burning Man 1990-1995.

UPDATE 22: Burning Man has a long history of prankster activity which is largely due to it’s association with the The Cacophony Society during the late 1980’s to mid 1990’s. One of the most infamous Burning Man pranks took place during the 1996 event when a giant neon smiley face was installed inside the head of the Burning Man sculpture.

UPDATE 23: Jimmy Kimmel mentioned the premature burn during his monologue. They showed the mug shot which got a big laugh from the crowd. Upon seeing it, Jimmy comments “You never expect a guy that looks like that to do something stupid”.

UPDATE 24: Danger Ranger has uploaded a photo of “The Laminated Man” from the Playa. “Buy the ticket take the ride”. – Hunter S. Thompson

The Laminated Man

UPDATE 25: Some people have been asking if I’ve been doing all of this reporting from Burning Man. Actually, I am not out there this year (I attended the event from 1995-2002). Burning Man’s connection to the outside world via the internet is better than it has ever been. Throughout the week I have been receiving information directly from the event via email, IM, IRC, photos, video, blog posts, Twitter, the live webcam and the stream of Burning Man Information Radio. Earlier this week I did a write up on how to access Burning Man 2007 remotely through the internet.

UPDATE 26: On Friday Joe Garofoli of the San Francisco Chronicle conducted a phone interview with Paul Addis who is now back in San Francisco: “Suspect in Burning Man arson decries event’s loss of spontaneity”

Paul’s arraignment has been scheduled for September 25th at the Pershing County Courthouse in Nevada. He plans on pleading “not guilty”.

UPDATE 27: An image of a phoenix has been added to the head of the newly constructed Burning Man sculpture in honor of its rising from the ashes of the man that was burned early on Tuesday.

UPDATE 28: John Hell just let us know about an interview with Paul Addis on Pirate Cat Radio (the interview starts at around 1/3 way in on the mp3 archive).

UPDATE 29: Danger Ranger, who’s been posting great photos from Burning Man all week, has uploaded photos of a special DPW Rebirth Crew 2007 t-shirt and some wonderful Paul Addis stencil art, part of a growing Paul Addis meme in Black Rock City.

2nd Burn Tee Shirt

Addis Maul Stencil

Steve Kisby took a photo of one of the Paul Addis posters that started showing up around the Playa on Friday.

Paul Addis Poster

UPDATE 30: The 2nd Burning Man of 2007 has successfully burned to completion.

UPDATE 31: “All Your Burning Man Are Belong To Us”, as seen being printed on t-shirts at a Sunday BBQ in San Francisco.

All Your Burning Man Are Belong To Us

UPDATE 32: On Sunday our friends had a Labor Day Weekend BBQ at their home in San Francisco. They invited a special guest, Paul Addis. The last time I saw Paul was at our Laughing Squid Paradise Lost event in July. Needless to say a lot has changed in his life since then. I shot a few photos of Paul, the first photos of him taken since his infamous mug shot.

Paul Addis

I also offered Paul the chance to say something on video. Up until now, he has only spoken about the “incident” in print and on the radio. I did not ask any questions, I just turned the camera on and let Paul speak his mind. In the video, Paul talks about what he wants to do with the last 30 seconds of his 15 minutes of fame.

UPDATE 33: The Cacophony Society page on Tribe has been renamed to Free Burning Man Society. People have been uploading a bunch of great photoshopped images related to the early burn and Paul Addis. It reminds me of some of the great parody art that emerged from the borg9 movement back in 2005.

Larry, Burning Man and Paul

UPDATE 34: It has been a week since the early burning of Burning Man and aside from a press release issued that same day, the organizers of the event have remained silent on the issue, while the media, blogs, mailing lists and online forums have been endlessly discussing it.

However Burning Man has announced their 2008 art theme: “American Dream”

UPDATE 35: A Wikipedia page has been created for Paul Addis. Of course, there is a lively discussion going on about the notability of Paul and the page has already been deleted once, with the deletion being contested.

UPDATE 36: Kitten Calfee sent us a statement regarding the suicide at Burning Man on Thursday morning. He was part of the Comfort & Joy theme camp where a man decided to end his life by hanging himself.

UPDATE 37: “Burnt Out”, a wonderful online comic by Carol Way about the early burn, was published in Salon on September 11th.

Burnt Out

UPDATE 38: While at Burning Man, Eddie Codel and Pava did an interview Ranger Sasquatch asking him what he thought about Paul Addis. Sasquatch was previously quoted in an article by the San Francisco Chronicle.

UPDATE 39: Steve Fritz, a photographer from Portland who has been shooting Burning Man since 2000, was taking some long exposure photos of Burning Man during the eclipse right before it caught on fire. Later when he looked at one of his photos, he noticed a man with face paint at the foot of the Burning Man sculpture.

Burning Man 2007

Burning Man 2007

Danger Ranger has posted about this as well over on Flickr.

UPDATE 40: Somebody has setup a Paul Addis Burning SuperPack auction on eBay.

Paul Addis Burning SuperPack

Included Item in the Paul Addis Super Stockpile:

A Gonzo poster, signed by the artist.

Paul’s gas can. Covered in unmistakable playa dust, and sporting a sexy Squidlist sticker, this gas can will be emptied before shipped.

An unopened box of Ivory Snow. Napalm is so clean, really. No extra charge for playa dust.

A small piece of the burned man… signed.

A small piece of the Man – rebuilt with heroic effort and erected once again on Thursday morning.

Paul’s Black Rock city “Green Man” map.

The infamous mugshot… one of the shots actually distributed on the Playa in an effort to prevent Paul from returning after he was released on Tuesday… signed.

The receipt for Paul’s Bail.

Burning Man’a official posting regarding the alleged arson.

The jail I.D. from the September 11th arrest.

The jail I.D. from the September 12th arrest.

A personal effects envelope … sporting the hair-raising date of infamy. (9/11)

A smaller envelope for cash…empty.

Paul’s San Francisco Prisoner Orientation ManuaL … signed.

UPDATE 41: Can Superman Save Burning Man?

Can Superman Save Burning Man?

UPDATE 42: Burning Man has posted an update to their website: “’07 Bman Arsonist To Be Arraigned In Pershing County”

On August 28, 2007, at approximately 2:58 AM, an arsonist set fire to the Burning Man figure in Black Rock City, Nevada, during the height of full lunar eclipse. The figure was extinguished, but not before it sustained significant damage, and it was deemed unsafe to keep it in place for the remainder of the event. The Burning Man event continued, and the figure was rebuilt in 3 days, to be burned again — at the appointed hour — on Saturday night, surrounded by Black Rock City’s more than 47,000 participants who had come to witness its immolation.

One man was arrested in conjunction with the unscheduled burning, Paul Addis, 35, of San Francisco, California. Addis was booked into the Pershing County, Nevada jail on suspicion of arson, illegal possession of fireworks, destruction of property and resisting a public officer, according to the sheriff’s department. He posted a $25,632 bond and was released.

Addis’ arraignment on these charges was scheduled for September 25, 2007, at the Pershing County courthouse. Burning Man has and will continue to cooperate fully with the authorities in this investigation in pursuit of justice for the perpetrator(s) of this act.

In the meantime, we are grateful to the entire community, including the hardworking Burning Man staff and volunteers, for their support and participation during the unscheduled fire and destruction, its aftermath, and later, the eventual rebuilding of our event’s namesake figure. Having weathered this unexpected experience together, the final sentence of our mission statement rings truer than ever in the afterglow of Burning Man 2007:

“We will always burn the Man.”

UPDATE 43: San Francisco author and journalist Erik Davis has written a two part, in-depth analysis of this year’s early burn:

“Burning Men, Part One: Chaosmos”

“Burning Men, Part Two: The Order of Things”

UPDATE 44: A preliminary hearing for the charges against Paul Addis has been set for October 4th.

UPDATE 45: Current did an interview with Paul: “Early Burner Man”

UPDATE 46: On Sunday, October 28th 2007 Paul Addis was arrested for allegedly planning to set fire to Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.