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Burning Man 2023: Main event burn postponed again as CEO says ‘no cause for panic’

Mud and puddles on the playa of Black Rock City at Burning Man 2023. | Source: Maryann Jones Thompson for The Standard

The burning of the eponymous Burning Man effigy was postponed again Sunday evening as tens of thousands of people remained confined in the Nevada desert and authorities investigated a death and hoped to open exit paths by the final day of the Labor Day weekend.

The CEO of Burning Man told NBC News Sunday that the situation at the venue in Nevada's Black Rock Desert was under control and far from alarming.

“There is no cause for panic," Marian Goodell told NBC.

The Pershing County Sheriff's Office said earlier in the day that a death had happened "during this rain event" but offered few details, including the identity of the person or the suspected cause of death.

The festival’s highlight, the burning of a wooden structure known as the Man, was postponed to 9:30 p.m. Monday, organizers announced Sunday evening.

Organizers, the Bureau of Land Management and the Pershing County Sheriff's Office closed vehicular access to the gathering and attendees trudged through mud, many barefoot or wearing plastic bags on their feet. As rain continued to fall sporadically Sunday afternoon, revelers were urged to shelter in place and conserve food, water and other supplies.

On their website, organizers encouraged participants to remain calm and suggested that the gathering is built to endure conditions like flooding. They said cellphone trailers were being dropped in several locations Saturday night and that they would be briefly opening up internet access overnight.

Mud and puddles surround camps at Burning Man 2023 after rain fell Friday. | Source: Maryann Jones Thompson for The Standard

Getting Out on Foot

Shuttle buses were also being organized to take attendees to Reno from the nearest town of Gerlach, a walk of about 5 miles from the site.

"Burning Man is a community of people who are prepared to support one another. We have come here knowing this is a place where we bring everything we need to survive," the organizers said in a statement. "It is because of this that we are all well-prepared for a weather event like this."

Celebrity DJ Diplo posted a video to Instagram on Saturday evening showing him and comedian Chris 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," wrote Diplo, whose real name is Thomas Wesley Pentz.

Vehicle gates will not open for the remainder of the event, which began Aug. 27 and was scheduled to end Monday, according to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the Black Rock Desert where the festival is being held.

READ MORE: See Photos of All the Art in Black Rock City as Build Week Ends

More Rain in Forecast

More than one-half inch of rain is believed to have fallen on Friday at the festival site, located about 110 miles north of Reno, the National Weather Service in Reno said. At least another quarter of an inch of rain is expected Sunday.

Officials said late Saturday the entrance to the event remained closed, and it wasn't immediately known when celebrants could leave the grounds. No driving is allowed except for emergency vehicles, and organizers said they didn't have a time yet when the roads would "be dry enough for RVs or vehicles to navigate safely." But if weather conditions improve, they were hopeful vehicles could depart by late Monday.

Many people played beer pong, danced and splashed in standing water. Mike Jed, a festivalgoer, and fellow campers made a bucket toilet so people didn't have to trudge as often through the mud to reach the portable toilets.

"If it really turns into a disaster, well, no one is going to have sympathy for us," Jed said. "I mean, it's Burning Man."