Nevada officials are investigating a death at the Burning Man festival site after rainstorms left tens of thousands of festivalgoers in the desert under a shelter-in-place order on Saturday.
The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office announced that the death occurred during the rain event but gave “few details,” not announcing the identity of the person that died or a cause of death, according to NBC News.
The announcement arrives after rainstorms reduced the Nevada desert to an enormous, impassable mud pit.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management made the call to stop “Burners” from going in or out of the federally protected Black Rock Desert for the remainder of the weeklong event, which began Aug. 27, The Associated Press reported. Anyone en route to Burning Man is advised to turn around before they are forced to.
Organizers announced on social media that the Black Rock airport had been closed, and only emergency vehicles would be permitted to drive on the playa or festival grounds.
The sheriff’s office noted that most of the festival’s operations “have been halted or significantly delayed,” adding that it backs the order to shelter in place.
“Some vehicles have been able to drive off the Playa, however, those vehicles have caused damage to the Playa surface, and it is not recommended at this time,” the office said on Saturday.
Burning Man is rained out! pic.twitter.com/K2mKmY2UQY
— Ivoryringlord (@ivoryringlord) September 2, 2023
Campers are instructed to “conserve food, water, and fuel, and shelter in a warm, safe space.”
One video shows Diplo, a Grammy-winning DJ, on the back of a vehicle in the desert along with several others including Chris Rock.
“Just walked 5 miles in the mud out of burning man with chris rock and a fan picked us up,” he wrote alongside a video shared to X (formerly Twitter).
Rock also shared a clip to his Instagram story that shows thick mud at the site.
“The playa isn’t really providing this time,” read one post, referencing an oft-used Burning Man phrase.
Due to recent rainfall, the Bureau of Land Management and the Pershing County Sheriff's Office officials have closed the entrance to Burning Man for the remainder of the event. Please avoid traveling to the area; you will be turned around. All event access is closed. pic.twitter.com/BY8Rv7eFLD
— Washoe Sheriff (@WashoeSheriff) September 2, 2023
The playa is meant to foster space for community engagement, gifting and trading, with an ethos of self-reliance and anti-consumerism. But what began in the 1980s as a bohemian gathering has in the last decade become a magnet for social media influencers and wealthy Silicon Valley types.
A pop-up Black Rock City attracts some 70,000 festivalgoers who camp in the desert around Labor Day weekend in various degrees of comfort, ultimately watching “The Man” burned in effigy. The festival is known for the art made by its attendees, who are often seen traipsing the grounds in wild and colorful costumes.
Burners, approached by the Reno Gazette-Journal, remained optimistic about the event. One attendee from Colombia, Angelov Franco, said it was his 13th time going.
“This is going to be fun,” Franco told the Gazette-Journal. “Hopefully, the sun will come out after the rain.”
Another man told the outlet his name was “Dirty D” and gave himself a mud bath.
Organizers said forecasts predicted partly sunny skies on Saturday and a potential for more rain on Sunday when the burn is planned.
The sheriff’s office stated: “There is more rain forecast for the next few days which could cause further delays and disruptions for participants attempting to leave the Festival as well as other operations within the Festival.”