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Soggy Bonfire Still Burns Bright

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The 2004 student-run bonfire may be remembered as much for the rain and the mud as it will be for the burn itself.

A few minutes past 9 PM Saturday night, torch-bearers tossed their flames onto the 40-plus-foot stack at Hot Rod Hill. It took a while for the logs to light, as steam and smoke poured off of stack for some 20 minutes. Throughout the day and into the evening, rain had saturated the region.

On the mostly-unpaved paths of Hot Rod Hill, a racetrack north of Bryan, visitors struggled to make it through the muck, especially on the infield of the track itself where bonfire was lit. Some students lost their shoes in the mess. By the end of the evening, mud-wrestling between friends and foot races up and down the messy embankments became a common sideshow.

Because of the sloppy conditions, the vast majority of visitors to the event took buses from Post Oak Mall. A line consisting of hundreds of people could be seen waiting for shuttles to take them back to their cars, but that line also was fairly fast-moving.

This was the third student-run bonfire. Texas A&M has not sanctioned a burn since 1999's collapse.

The burn came two days after Thursday's dedication of the Bonfire Memorial on the campus of A&M. Around 50,000 people attended the official opening. The memorial is on the exact site of the 1999 stack collapse, which killed 12 and injured 27. Thursday was the fifth anniversary of the incident.

A day later, a partial settlement was reached in the lawsuit filed by families of those killed and hurt in 1999. Twenty-five student leaders of the stack's construction came to an agreement with seven victims' families. Those families will reportedly share over $4 million.