News and updates, exclusive special offers and more! Enter your email address below to sign up for the free FATE newsletter.
As night settles over the Pampa—the vast expanse of Argentinean flatland that transcends the confines of the province named after it—strange sights are seen by those who make it their business to be up after dark: hunters lying in wait for large boars to appear out of the darkness, lonely truckers making their way along unlit roads to make much-needed deliveries in small towns, and farmers looking for stray animals. The farms known as estancias pepper the emptiness much like stars filling the night sky, separated by many miles between and invisible to each other.
Sometimes, the impenetrable cloak of darkness is broken by an unearthly sight: the sudden appearance of a large dome of light that emerges from the short, scrub trees, casting a blood-red glow over the emptiness, suggesting the sudden start of a prairie fire that will devour the scrub vegetation in a matter of minutes, trapping the hapless observer in a wall of flames.
This is exactly what was reported by a group of hunters in the Pampa in August 1996. After witnessing the unearthly glow and the bloody flames, they thought their fate had been sealed by a rogue prairie fire, but as they sought a means of escape, they realized that they could not hear the trademark sounds of a fire despite the approaching glow. This caused them to pause and look at the luminous dome at the center of the conflagration, which despite its reddish glow and yellow-orange core did not produce any smoke: “the fire that is not a fire,” as it is known.
Julio Orozco, a deputy sergeant with the La Pampa police, witnessed many of these “unfires” throughout his life, mainly near his hometown of 25 de Mayo. In 1995, according to a report provided by Gaceta Ovni magazine, Orozco and an assistant were patrolling some government offices in this empty region when both men noticed what appeared to be a large, raging fire in the distance. “…I saw a light that glared brighter than hell. Ordering my assistant to load shovels into the truck to fight the blaze, I phoned the firefighters in 25 de Mayo to come to the scene. As I changed out of my uniform, my assistant came over to say the conflagration had put itself out. I thought it was a joke or that we had all gone crazy; a fire of that magnitude simply doesn’t snuff itself out.”
Yet Orozco struggled in vain to find the least ember of the massive dome of fire that had prompted him to call for help. After phoning the fire brigade once more to report a false alarm, he headed toward where the dome of light had been seen for a closer look.
“We went to Medanitos, to the oil fields, but saw nothing. We headed for the petrochemical plant to see if one of the burners had gone off, but nothing. No sooner did we get out of our pickup truck, a group of workers ran over to us asking if we’d seen the fire. According to them, it had been some six kilometers distant. They attested to the fact that none of the refinery’s burners were in operation at the time.”
Villagers have reported that huge trees known as ombús (Phytolacca dioica) have been seen burning from their lofty crowns, consumed from above by a fire that does not involve combustion; one such tree in the province of Entre Rios was burned to the ground in such a manner, with no traces of a fire anywhere in evidence.
But strange objects have also been seen causing vast conflagrations. The fields on the city of Londres, Rioja Province, in the Andean foothills, were torched by the maneuvers of a “firestarting UFO” that disgorged a fireball on the fateful night of August 13, 1982, while two police officers looked on in utter disbelief from their patrol car. It was suggested that the unidentified object had deliberately waited for gale-force winds to blow down from the mountains before releasing the gout of flame, causing fire to devour the vineyards and groves of this largely agricultural region. The Buenos Aires’ Clarín and La Crónica newspapers covered the shocking story.
Curiously enough, the ancient cultures of the Andean valleys had worshiped the fire god Pachacamac. Could the deity have come to collect his long overdue share of the harvest? ...
Read the rest of this article in the June 2006 issue of FATE
Six strange and unknown packed issues of FATE for just
Don't miss a single issue, subscribe today!