The greatest fire in the world

Written by By Parker Higgins, CNN

Thick plumes of red, white and black smoke rise from this giant fire raging on the top of the dramatic Nyiragongo volcano in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Smoke covers large swathes of the Goma District in the northeast of the country and snakes over the northern slope of the volcano. But while the smoke-belching rage lights up nights in the DRC, the story behind the fire is one of silence.

Nyiragongo volcano has been burning for over four thousand years, but the fire itself — a huge plume of anthracite from the side of the crater that roughly defines the volcano’s top — is still almost unknown.

The first eyewitness report to The 4,000 Year Fire, a new book published by Camilla Molyneux, focuses on this often mysterious feature.

“It was a big volcanic feature in the background of the view from the plateau,” she says. “We saw it during the day and were very enamored by it. It was a really beautiful and spectacular feature. But when we went into the crater — we had no idea how to describe the feature.”

The beauty and the danger

The 4,000 Year Fire (Camilla Molyneux)

The book explores the mystery of the fire’s origins and history. There is no telling how long the fire may last. Some think it has been burning for thousands of years but may have started in the colonial period when French forces on the plateau put it out with massive quantities of gunpowder.

Molyneux also explores how the fire could be damaging to the surrounding area, especially the surrounding rivers. The burning, rather than freezing, of the aridity increases the chances of the valley tectonic plates meeting. This can cause deep subsidence, but has nothing to do with the fire.

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