usat burning man temple
Falling debris sends showers of sparks from the Temple at Burning Man. The structure was burned in a solemn ceremony Sunday night (Sept. 4). Photo courtesy of USA Today/Trevor Hughes

Temple burn brings Burning Man events to a close

BLACK ROCK CITY, Nev. (USA Today) A solemn and nearly silent audience of thousands watched the final formal act of Burning Man 2016 as the Temple burned to the ground.

Sunday evening’s Temple burn stood in stark contrast to the Saturday burning of the Man himself, whose journey was started with fireworks and explosions. Sunday night as dark fell, Burning Man workers silently lit the 80-foot-high wooden Temple, which was packed with both extra wood and memories.

As is tradition, Burners all week have been leaving notes, letters and even the ashes of loved ones inside the Temple in preparation for the burn under a crescent moon.

Workers built the ornate temple on site from scrap wood they hauled in, and volunteers will later sift through and remove the debris. Returning the desert to its pristine condition is a key condition of the federal permit under which Burning Man operates.

About 70,000 people built and occupied a temporary city in the desert about two hours north of Reno. The Temple burn on Sunday was the final formal event of the week, although it officially ends Monday.

As the temple collapsed into itself and the flames began to die, an eerie howl rose from the thousands of people watching — and then silence returned.

Then, a man deep in the crowd began yelling: “Feel the burn, baby. Do you feel the burn?”

Another Burner added: “Why does drunk uncle always have to show up?” to muted giggles.

Silence again returned until a drone flew overhead, breaking the tension, and the crowd began to silently drift back to the encampment.

Thousands of people began driving away from the encampment site Sunday evening, but the resulting traffic jam by 10 p.m. was so bad that Burning Man officials were forced to temporarily close the access road across the desert. Before the closure, drivers were waiting up to six hours in their vehicles to travel less than 10 miles to the nearest road.

The departure surge is known as Exodus.


  1. A fitting testimony to how their works shall be judged on the last day when Jesus returns to consummate his kingdom and judge all.

  2. You eargerly look forward to that don’t you? That isn’t happening ever, Burning Man is safe. Don’t care for it much. It’s just a religion without a god. But of course that describes all religions.

  3. What an apt and appropriate observation; succinct, lucid, and tinged with irony. Worthy of P. J. O’Rourke or Mark Twain.

  4. Burning Man is not a “religion”. The “Temple” is an annual large-scale art installation. But it shows how spectacle, music, and ritual can inspire emotions of a type often described as “religious” or “spiritual”. Actual religions have known about this for many centuries, and use it to promote their brand. So do politicians, bands, sports teams, and all manner of individuals or groups seeking to motivate or inspire their followers. It’s very effective.

  5. Nothing worse for the business of religion than atheism.

  6. Strangely reminds me of a Chinese customs for the honored dead. People burn fake paper money or paper replicas of luxury items so their deceased loved ones have it in the next world.

  7. Burning Man fascinates me. I’d love to go sometime. I want to see the art, the community, observe the participants and immerse myself in it. Why do they go? What do they get from it? Fascinating.

  8. Happily, Atheists are and will always remain a very small percentage of the world’s population. It just doesn’t reach most people because there is an innate yearning in the human heart and mind for a relationship with God. Sadly, many are misdirected in their search for God, but as the scripture declares, ” And you shall seek me, and find me, when you search for me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13. (Please note the 3 entries above by me were odd transcription errors.) My apologies for being fumble fingered.

  9. They didn’t close the exit road because of the traffic jam. The traffic jam was a result of them closing the exit road.

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