The D-G has an update
on the mysterious hole of fire in Midway, in Baxter County:
"It's not a mystery anymore," said Jim Sierzchula, the Baxter County emergency management director. "It was a prank."
The mysterious flaming hole of Midway drew national media attention. Initial suspects included a meteorite, methane and the devil.
Now, at least officials know it wasn't a serious public threat like a leaking natural gas line. Or the flames of Hell.
"The best explanation is it was a giant Sterno-can prank," Sierzchula said, referring to a brand of fuel that is made to be burned in its can.
The flame, eight feet high, flared from a volleyball-sized hole on the ground on September 17 and burned for 40 minutes. The hole had been in the ground for around ten years but had never previously spouted fire. The mystery confounded locals and attracted national media attention.
County officials had already ruled out the possibility that Satan was responsible for the flame. In October, Mickey Pendergrass, the county judge in Baxter County, stated
, "As far as the spiritual Satan goes, we've ruled that out. He didn't come up and stick his pitchfork in the ground and blow that hole out."
An analysis of soil samples found traces of solvents commonly used in easily available paint thinners, as well as chemical compounds produced after combustion. A UA chemistry professor suggested that the most likely explanation was that someone poured paint thinner into the hole and set it on fire.
While officials say the mystery is solved, they're a little vague on the details. It seems pretty clear that it was a man-made flame, but Sierzchula admitted that beyond that "it's all speculation."
Mostly, it seems like they're tired of hearing about it:
I've had people call me at 2 or 3 in the morning telling me what it was. I don't need to play with it anymore.
I'm not so sure. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the town of Midway that he didn't exist.