The Living Fire That Can Foretell Earthquakes

If the phenomenon of a self-burning fire is not mind-blowing enough already, know that the living fire of Vrancea is more than just pretty flames. It is an indicator that the disaster that lies underneath is about to erupt.

The living fires of Buzau county in Romania
The living fires of Buzau county, Romania. Photo: Roberto Sorin /stock.adobe.com

It’s hard, if not impossible, to tell when exactly the “living fire” started burning in Andreiașu de Jos. With no shape or designated spot, the flames burst into the open air whenever they feel like it. However, they appear to do so more vigorously when there’s an imminent threat approaching… that of an earthquake.

The living fire: sparking delight

Over the decades, the beautiful dance of multicolored flames has delighted people from near and far who have come to enjoy an evening in the presence of this one-of-a-kind scenery. Displaying various shades of red, orange, and blue, the playful flames have charmed the hearts of many with their warmth. For most who visit the site, the experience is an enjoyable and unique way to spend sunset hours. Flames of 30 cm to 50 cm burst around here and there in a limited area, and you can enjoy the show while relaxing on one of the benches found everywhere.

For locals, however, these burning flames represent more than a pretty spectacle. They can make the difference between life and death. For the people of Vrancea, one of Romania’s most seismic regions, the burning flames are believed to be enriched with the powers of premonition: letting people know when an earthquake is about to happen.

Every once in a while, the flames reach above and beyond their usual dance and reach heights of 2 meters, and that’s when people know they are in danger. The fire may be beautiful to look at, but when the flames reach such heights, it’s a sign that you should focus your energy on finding shelter, for the ground is about to start shaking.

Vrancea: a hundred earthquakes a year

Don’t let this discourage you from experiencing the beautiful “living fire” with your own eyes. There may be over a hundred earthquakes yearly in Vrancea, but most are not felt on the surface. Moreover, this phenomenon, which used to frighten locals in the days before there was a scientific explanation, has now become a source of pride for the entire community. The area has been decorated to foster an enjoyable experience. There even used to be a festival called “The Living Fire.” Unfortunately, it hasn’t been organized due to financial constraints in the past few years.

Living fires, a phenomenon caused by the strong presence of gas and minerals under the surface of the earth, are relatively rare on our planet. If you wish to see with your own eyes a fire that cannot be put out (whatever method you have in mind is not going to work – we’ve tried them all), Andreiașu de Jos is the biggest such site in Romania, accounting for 40 ha and over 50 tons of methane gas emanated yearly.

Naomi Gherman

Master student in Cultural Diplomacy and International Relations at Babeș-Bolyai University, eager to share more about our world's most fascinating stories and people. Romania-based reader, writer and content creator with a strong interest in journalism, foreign languages and politics.

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