My bad, that is actually Turkmenistan. From wikipedia:
“The site was identified by Soviet scientists in 1971. It was thought to be a substantial oil field site. The scientists set up a drilling rig and camp nearby, and started drilling operations to assess the quantity of gas reserve available at the site. As the Soviets were pleased with the success of finding the gas resources, they started storing the gas. The ground beneath the drilling rig and camp collapsed into a wide crater and disappeared. No lives were lost in the incident. Large quantities of methane gas were released, however, creating an environmental problem and posing a potential danger to the people of the nearby villages.
Fearing the further release of poisonous gases from the cavern, the scientists decided to burn it off. They thought that it would be safer to burn it than to extract it from underground through expensive methods. At that time, expectations were that the gas would burn out within a few weeks, but has continued to burn more than four decades after it was set on fire.
There is a similar area in Azerbaijan called Yanar Dag.
“Yanar Dag is a 116-meter hill located on top of a pocket of natural gas that constantly erupts into flames. These flames jet out at least three meters into the air, through a porous layer of sandstone. Unlike the other mud volcanoes of Azerbaijan, Yanar Dag has no seepage of mud or liquid, so the fire always burns.”
“A 10-meter long wall of fire continuously burns alongside the edge of the hill. This makes for the most spectacular view, especially at night. The air around this open fireplace is always thick with the smell of gas. The heavy Absheron wind, twisting the flames into bizarre shapes, adds to the mystery of the region. Tongues of fire also rise from the surface of the streams located around the hill. These streams are called Yanar Bulaq, or ‘Burning Spring’.”
“The springs’ water is saturated with sulfur, so even though they appear harmless, they are flammable enough to be ignited by a lit matchstick.”
“….the scientific explanation – Azerbaijan is a nation with enormous oil and gas reserves. So steady gas emissions from the underlying soils cause the surface of the land to sometimes erupt in flames. Yanar Dag wasn’t the only fire mountain in the country to begin with, but most of them went out after humans began to exploit these resources and the underground pressure reduced.”
“Even today, the flames never fail to amaze tourists and locals alike. These natural fires have always inspired humans , and played a crucial role in the creation of mystical faiths like Zoroastrianism….(Z! You listening?!….centered on ceremonial fire cults. Yanar Dag is now a protected site, with extensive archeological studies being conducted in the area.
Thanks T4C. I’d love to see a natural feature like that around here. I know that there is a coal seam burning underground somewhere in PA I think. It’s been burning for decades. The town above it had to be permanently evacuated.
Ten to fifteen years ago a wildfire broke out in north central Canada. This area is very remote with no human activity. There had been no lightening strikes in the area so they were confused as to what started the fire. They discovered that it was an underground coal seam that just happened to come to the surface where the fire “started”. Apparently the coal seam had caught fire hundreds of miles east of there decades ago and still burns underground today.