A burning hell-maw opened up in Arkansas last month, and no one knows why.
Around 4:30 a.m. on Sept. 17, fire started spewing from a hole in the ground in rural Midway, Arkansas. The flames burned eight feet high out of the volleyball-sized hole, according to local news reports, for more than 40 minutes.
The incident has launched Baxter County citizens, authorities, and utilities providers into an investigation on the mystery of the Midway Fire Hole.
"As far as the spiritual Satan goes, we've ruled that out," Mickey Pendergrass, the county judge in Baxter County told Arkansas Online. "He didn't come up and stick his pitchfork in the ground and blow that hole out."
Midway Fire Protection District Chief Donald Tucker told me over the phone that although news reports have said the flames initially reached 12 feet high, he never saw them get to that level. A passerby saw the flames and reported it to the fire department, he said. By the time they arrived shortly after the report, it had lowered to eight feet. It burned red-orange, at about two feet in diameter.
Tucker told me that a few over-eager young firefighters tried to get closer to the flames, but he cautioned them back. Between corralling them, and the fact that a hole was spewing flames for no discernable reason at the time, Tucker didn’t get any photos. “With a fire like that, you don’t know what it is, so you don’t put yourself in danger.”
Geologists from the Arkansas Geological Survey scoped the hole with a camera, and determined that it runs horizontally 10 feet away from the opening and three feet below the ground surface. It’s likely an animal-made burrow, like groundhogs or armadillos might dig. It’s been there for 10 years.
Investigations by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality have also ruled out methane, underground fuel storage tanks, natural gas and leaking above-ground gasoline tanks. They’re not ruling out the theory that someone threw something explosive down the hole, but a soil sample test could solve the case. The investigation is ongoing.
In May, blue flames started flying out of fissures in Hawaii, and in July last year, an “unknown type of fire” started when someone did a motorcycle burnout on sulfur. Everything is definitely fine and normal.