Officials in northern Arkansas are investigating the cause of a mysterious hole in the ground that spouted flames into the air for more than 40 minutes.
Investigators have ruled out methane as the source of the fire that erupted from the hole on Sept. 17 in Midway, a community near the Arkansas-Missouri border. Farfetched suspicions, such as meteorites, have also been proven unfounded, Baxter County Judge Mickey Pendergrass told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
The judge acknowledged other theories, too: "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."
The flames flared up to 12 feet (3.6 meters) high from the hole, which has been on the private property for at least 10 years, Pendergrass said. Geologists scoped the hole with a camera and determined it was likely created by an animal because it extended horizontally before intercepting a nearby drainage ditch, according to an Arkansas Geological Survey report.
No utility or fuel lines in the area were determined to be leaking, Pendergrass said. Black Hills Energy technicians didn't detect any natural gas in the area.
Soil samples taken from the site haven't yet been analyzed by a lab.
"The soil samples should clear up any possibility of gasoline or anything else put down the hole or migrating groundwater contaminate such as gasoline," said Ty Johnson of the Geological Survey.
County officials were concerned that a leak could've ignited other fires around town.
"We've kind of relieved our fears about it being a danger to the surrounding neighborhood," Pendergrass said.