RENO, Nev. — The annual Burning Man festival on the northern Nevada desert drew a record crowd of nearly 54,000 people — more than the 50,000 allowed under a permit with federal land managers.
U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials said Sunday that they'll address the issue with organizers after the dust clears from the weeklong celebration of art and radical self-expression, which ends Monday on the Black Rock Desert, about 120 miles north of Reno.
A peak crowd of 53,735 was reported late Saturday afternoon, which was nearly 4,000 people more than the maximum limit set by the agency and roughly a 9 percent increase over last year, said BLM spokeswoman Lisa Ross.
She said she thinks organizers sell over 50,000 tickets on the premise that not everyone will show, and BLM officials will talk to them about the matter. The agency imposes limits on the crowd size in an effort to protect the sprawling desert's environment.
"They're permitted for up to 50,000 participants, and this year's crowd was definitely over the amount that's permitted," Ross told The Associated Press. "I think they've increased in population almost every year."
A phone call to Burning Man spokeswoman Marian Goodell was not immediately returned.
Ticket sales were cut off in late July after the festival sold out for the first time in its 25-year history.
Thousands of participants began leaving the gathering after its traditional climax late Saturday night with the torching of its 40-foot signature effigy.
On Sunday night, remaining revelers planned to torch the Temple of Transition, which was billed as the tallest installation art structure ever erected at Burning Man.
The structure, which covers more than 45,000 square feet, features a 120-foot tiered, hexagonal central tower, surrounded by five 58-foot tiered, hexagonal towers. Inside, participants meditated, chanted or wrote notes to late loved ones.
BLM officials on Sunday reported no major problems during the gathering. As of Friday night, they had made three arrests and issued 42 citations, mostly for drug-related offenses. Total arrest and citation figures for the event will be released later.
A small plane took off from Burning Man and crashed upon its return Friday night, but the pilot and passenger walked away from the accident. The festival has a landing strip on the desert.
One participant died of unknown natural causes on Wednesday, Ross said, and the festival's medical center assisted many revelers for dehydration and other health problems.
"It's been a successful year as far as things going pretty smoothly, especially with that many people," Ross said.
Press Democrat Poll
What type of warning did you receive about last October’s fires? (Multiple responses allowed)
Official alert on my landline: 5 percent
Official alert on my cellphone: 17 percent
Neighbor warned me: 14 percent
Family member or friend warned me: 28 percent
Police or fire came to my home to warn me: 5 percent
None: 43 percent
Don’t know: 1 percent
In the future, how would you like to be notified about a fire or other impending disaster?
Phone call: 31 percent
Text message: 30 percent
Email: 1 percent
Air raid siren: 28 percent
Other (specify): 7 percent
Don’t know: 3 percent
Do you think Sonoma County is more prepared today to warn you about fires or disasters than it was last year?
Yes: 54 percent
No: 31 percent
Don’t know: 15 percent
SOURCE: The Press Democrat Poll/David Binder Research