Sheriff Slams Burning Man Attendees Who Abandoned Cars and Left Behind ‘Trash for Miles’

Muddy desert plain seen on September 3, 2023, after heavy rains turned the annual Burning
JULIE JAMMOT/AFP via Getty Images

The sheriff presiding over the Nevada county that hosts the annual art and music festival Burning Man slammed its tens of thousands of attendees over their abandoned cars and piles of trash they left behind as they fled the desert amid a brewing storm.

Pershing County Sheriff Jerry Allen told the San Francisco Chronicle that the “angry” attendees leaving Burning Man on Monday afternoon were “not showing compassion to their fellow man who have endured the same issues over the past few days.”

“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,” Allen told the newspaper.

“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,” the sheriff added.

Allen went on to say that while there are “large amounts of property and trash strewn from the Festival into Reno and points beyond” every year as a result of Burning Man, this year’s event caused an even bigger problem.

“This year is a little different in that there are numerous vehicles strewn all throughout the playa for several miles,” the sheriff told the San Francisco Chronicle.

“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,” he added.

Allen ultimately blamed Burning Man organizers, who he says are responsible for cleaning up the trash and debris from the Burning Man area and roadways each year.

This comes as authorities continue to investigate the death of a man on the festival grounds at the height of the storm.

On Friday evening, the sheriff’s office received a call regarding an unresponsive man on the ground, Allen said. Burning Man Festival and medical personnel later administered CPR to the man.

Due to the “unusual rain event” taking place on the festival grounds, access to the area was delayed, and by the time authorities arrived on scene, the man, who was identified as 32-year-old Leon Reece, had been pronounced dead by the festival doctor, the sheriff said.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Facebook and Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.


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