“I’ve been here 17 years, and I’ve never seen it like this,” said Mark Pirtle, the former Officer in Charge during Burning Man for the Bureau of Land Management.
Pirtle is now a civilian Incident Commander at the event, and said that the Ponderosa fire is about 40-50 miles up Highway 447, the same road used by burners to get from Highway 80 to Burning Man.
On Wednesday night, just a few miles from the Highway 80 turn off onto 447, the distinct smell of fire was in the air, and remained for the 70+ mile drive.
“I just hope it clears up for the event,” said Pirtle. “We’ve had smoke [from forest fires] before, but we’ve never had a fire this big that has caused this much smoke during the event. Well, not in the last 17 years that is.”
Those who have already arrived to the Black Rock Desert of NV have been treated to blood red sunsets and sunrises as smoke mixes with dust while crews set up art, infrastructure and living quarters.
The fire is expected to be contained by Monday, the first full day of the Burning Man festival, at which point the skies in the city will erupt in their own sea of flames.