August 28, 2007

SF Man Torches Burning Man Four Days Early! His name is Paul Addis Pictured Here With Red Face.

Paul Addis, the man accused of setting Burning Man's wooden statue aflame four days before it was supposed to go up in smoke, appears here in a mugshot for the ages. Scott Beale of Laughing Squid has details on Addis in his comprehensive post on the incident, including this fascinating tidbit: Addis portays Hunter S. Thompson in the one-man show "Gonzo." His arrest may put a crimp in plans to bring the show to the West Coast later this year. A photo of Addis on stage, after the jump.
- Burning Man Burns Days Before Scheduled Burn Due to Arson.
(08-28) 11:27 PDT BLACK ROCK DESERT, NEV. - A San Francisco man was arrested on felony arson charges today after the 40-foot-tall "Man" statue whose torching is the annual highlight of the Burning Man festival in Nevada went up in flames four days early, authorities said.

Paul Addis, 35, of San Francisco, was booked into the Pershing County Jail in Nevada on the arson charge and misdemeanor possession of fireworks, Sheriff Ron Skinner said.

Festival organizers, meanwhile, pondered the smoldering remains of the Man and promised to rebuild the big guy in time for Saturday's regularly scheduled burn in the Black Rock Desert north of Reno.

"The Man is still standing, and an assessment is under way to determine the structural integrity of the Man and the Green Man Pavilion," according to a statement posted today at "The event will continue as scheduled."

Jamie Thompson, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Land Management, which manages the land where the event is held, said the platform and material around the statue was intact.

Some 40,000 people are expected to gather in the desert by this weekend for Burning Man, and Thompson said about 15,000 revelers are already at the festival site. Many were on the playa early this morning watching the lunar eclipse when the fire ignited at 2:58 a.m., according to Burning Man organizers.

Thousands of festival-goers streamed out onto the playa from the surrounding Black Rock City encampment to view the spectacle, witnesses said. Black Rock City rangers rushed to the scene and doused the conflagration within about 25 minutes.

Reactions ranged from amusement and support to frustration and anger.

"I am disturbed that the Man is burnt. As I looked at it, I was going, 'This can't be happening,' " said Bob Harms of South Lake Tahoe, a seven-time burner.

Kyle Marx of Eugene, Ore., said the fire started from the Man's left leg and spread to engulf nearly his entire body.

"Some people were chanting, 'Let him burn, let him burn!' and some were chanting, 'Save the man, save the man!' " Marx said.

Several people were seen clambering up the tower of logs below the statue's platform base shortly before the fire began.

"Someone went to a great extent to interfere with everyone else's burn. I think, frankly, an attention whore has made a plea for attention," said a Burning Man volunteer named Ranger Sasquatch. "In three days, we will have this rebuilt."

A festival-goer who identified herself as simply Erica said she and her friends were "upset by the fact that someone would take this away from everybody who comes to the event just to see the man burn. To try to sabotage him is completely wrong. We wait all year long. This is an adult's Christmas party."

Chronicle correspondent Matthew Taylor contributed to this report. E-mail Joe Garofoli at