The fallout from the 2023 chaotic iteration of Burning Man continues as the local sheriff slammed attendees for leaving trash strewn across the Nevada desert in the wake of the washed out festival.
‘As usually happens in what burners refer to as the “default world” people allow their emotions to override their reasonableness and they are lashing out at each other as they leave the playa and attempt to make it to their next destination,’ Pershing County Sheriff Allen told the San Francisco Chronicle.
‘This behavior definitely does not fall within the 10 principles of Burning Man, but that is not the fault of BMP either, but is a societal issue.’
In addition to racial inclusion and ‘radical self-expression,’ the festival counts ‘leaving no trace’ among its core principles.
‘Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them,’ the festival website reads.
The area where the festival takes place is temporarily built each year on top of alkali flats, lava beds and the bottom of what was once Lake Lahontan on federally protected land in the town of Gerlach, Nevada.
Long lines of vehicles are pictured on Monday as festival attendees leave the annual event
The spirit of Burning Man is self-sufficiency, but many people appeared to have ignore it and left their trash behind
People appeared to have just flung their trash bags out of their vehicles on Monday
Trash is left by the side of the road on Monday along the exit route out of Burning Man
The dry alkali flats created a unique problem for those attending the festival when the area was hit with weeks worth of rain in few days.
‘It was really, really wet and really, really slick. But it’s also very alkaline. So you do have to be careful for no prolonged exposure of your skin to the mud because, apparently it can actually start to really, gently burn your skin,’ attendee Justin Schuman told CBS News.
Sheriff Allen also said exhausted partygoers ‘lashed out’ at one another after finally breaking following a weekend of misery in the rain and mud.
Drone footage from DailyMail.com showed snaking crowds of vehicles inching their way slowly across the sand as they made for the exits on Monday afternoon.
The 10 principles of Burning Man
The ten principles of Burning Man were written by festival co-founder Larry Harvey in 2004.
They are as follows:
1. Radical Inclusion
Attendees are asked to ‘welcome and include’ strangers at the party.
Festival-goers are encouraged to give gifts to others and not to expect one in return.
A commitment that there will be no sponsorship or advertising at the festival.
4. Radical Self-reliance
Revelers are asked to rely on their ‘inner resources.’
5. Radical Self-expression
You are asked to show off your ‘unique gifts’ through the festivities.
6. Communal Effort
Despite the self-expression, attendees are asked to work together to ensure a good time for everyone.
7. Civic Responsibility
Festival-goers must ‘assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.’
8. Leaving No Trace
As part of a commitment to the environment, party-goers are asked to clean up after themselves.
Those in attendance are asked to work and play as part of the community.
Revelers are asked to get involved right away at the festival.
Some tried to cut in front of each other while others swerved in the mud to avoid crashing, with reports of patience running thin throughout the gridlock.
Tempers frayed during the hours-long line of RVs and campers on the way out of the Nevada desert, with cops warning many had turned hostile towards each other.
It came as the grand finale – the burning of ‘the man’ – finally got underway a day late on Monday night, with the wooden statue lit for the dwindling crowd who’d stayed.
Meanwhile officials named the man who died during the festival on Saturday as 32-year-old Leon Reece, as they admitted the weather hampered their response.
Allen also said the unusual weather delayed the arrival of the emergency services when Reece collapsed on Saturday.
‘Pershing County dispatch received a call regarding a male subject who was on the ground and unresponsive at the Burning Man Festival and medical personnel were administering CPR to the male,’ Allen said.
‘Due to the unusual rain event happening on the Playa, access to the area and investigative efforts were delayed.
‘Upon the arrival of Pershing County Sheriff’s Office Deputies, the doctor at the Festival had already pronounced the male subject, later identified as Leon Reece, a 32 year old male, deceased.’
He said an investigation is underway and a toxicology report being carried out. The sheriff said the abnormal weather was causing problems with trash.
‘This year is a little different in that there are numerous vehicles strewn all throughout the playa for several miles,’ the sheriff said.
‘The Man’ is pictured going up in flames on Monday night, at the end of the Burning Man festival
The giant sculpture – the centerpiece of the annual event – is pictured looming over the encampment before Monday’s burning
The giant effigy is seen being lit on Monday in the Nevada desert
Jerry Allen, sheriff of Pershing County, said that festival goers were losing their tempers and ‘lashing out’
The sheriff said some people had forgotten the principles of the festival, of kindness and compassion and leaving behind no trace of their visit
Allen said some of the ‘Burners’ were becoming ‘angry’ as the festival drew to a close
A RV is stuck in the mud as the drivers tried to leave the Nevada site
Muddy boots are abandoned by the side of the road on Monday
‘Some participants were unwilling to wait or use the beaten path to attempt to leave the desert and have had to abandon their vehicles and personal property wherever their vehicle came to rest.
‘The playa is unforgiving when it is wet and will consume your vehicle until such time as it dries enough to be able to traverse.’
Organizers on Monday said 64,000 revelers remained on the site, and begged those trying to leave the filthy encampment to have patience.
A half-inch of rain fell on Friday, turning the site into a quagmire, and attendees were ordered not to leave because the exit roads were impassable.
Some said the weather engendered a sense of community, but others admitted there was a mild panic at the thought of being stuck with dwindling food and water. Social media users laughed at the ‘harrowing’ stories of fleeing the site.
The road reopened at 2pm on Monday and ‘the exodus’ began. Those leaving the festival before ‘the burn’ on Monday faced five-hour waits until they reached the open road.
‘Take it slow and mind those directing traffic,’ organizers pleaded. ‘Please be patient as you exit through Gate Road, and respect Burning Man staff who are working hard to make the Exodus experience as smooth and safe as possible.’
People in parrot suits sit on Monday and stare out at ‘the man’ – the effigy in the distance
People are pictured wading through the mud in Nevada on Monday
Shai Peza of Chicago dances in the mud after the rain on Saturday
Molly of Salt Lake City poses for a photo at Burning Man
People were being urged to delay their departure until Tuesday if possible.
They were also asked not to attempt to walk. Some attendees – among them comedian Chris Rock, actor Austin Butler and DJ Diplo – had already left the festival on foot.
The event began on August 27 and had been scheduled to end Monday morning, with attendees packing up and cleaning up after themselves.
‘We are a little bit dirty and muddy, but spirits are high. The party still going,’ said Scott London, a Southern California photographer, adding that the travel limitations offered ‘a view of Burning Man that a lot of us don’t get to see.’
Attendees walk through a muddy desert plain on Monday
A man makes his way through the mud in the desert on Monday
Burning Man organizers announced on Monday it was safe to leave, but said no one could drive out of the event at speeds higher than 10mph
Hundreds of Burning Man attendees who planned to leave on buses wait for information about when they will be able to leave
A man surveys the muddy scene in Black Rock, Nevada, on Monday
‘Dirty D’ of Los Angeles dives into the mud at Burning Man
One person could even be seen with a boat that had been parked up on the site
The annual gathering, which launched on a San Francisco beach in 1986, attracts nearly 80,000 artists, musicians and activists for a mix of wilderness camping and avant-garde performances.
Disruptions are part of the event’s recent history: Dust storms forced organizers to temporarily close entrances to the festival in 2018, and the event was twice canceled altogether during the pandemic.
President Joe Biden told reporters in Delaware on Sunday that he was aware of the situation at Burning Man, including the death, and the White House was in touch with local authorities.
The event is remote on the best of days and emphasizes self-sufficiency.
Amid the flooding, revelers were urged to conserve their food and water, and most remained hunkered down at the site.
Some attendees, however, managed to walk several miles to the nearest town or catch a ride there.
Diplo, whose real name is Thomas Wesley Pentz, posted a video to Instagram on Saturday evening showing him and Rock riding in the back of a fan’s pickup truck. He said they had walked six miles through the mud before hitching a ride.
‘I legit walked the side of the road for hours with my thumb out,’ Diplo wrote.
Diplo had ski goggles to protect his eyes from the desert dust as he left the site
Actor and comedian Chris Rock, 58, found himself amidst the muddy chaos that descended upon the Burning Man festival site and hitched a ride out of the chaos on Saturday
Lines of traffic snake across the desert on Monday as festival attendees try to leave
A double rainbow is seen over the site on Friday, amid heavy rainfall
Cindy Bishop and three of her friends managed to drive their rented RV out of the festival at dawn on Monday when, Bishop said, the main road wasn’t being guarded.
She said they were happy to make it out after driving toward the exit — and getting stuck several times — over the course of two days.
But Bishop, who traveled from Boston for her second Burning Man, said spirits were still high at the festival when they had left.
Most people she spoke with said they planned to stay for the ceremonial burns.
‘The spirit in there was really like, ‘We’re going to take care of each other and make the best of it,” she said.
Rebecca Barger, a photographer from Philadelphia, arrived at her first Burning Man on August 26 and was determined to stick it out through the end.
‘Everyone has just adapted, sharing RVs for sleeping, offering food and coffee,’ Barger said. ‘I danced in foot-deep clay for hours to incredible DJs.’