The Romanian Eternal Flames

This post is part of the GeoConnect³d blog.

Location of the Living Fires in Romania

Situated 56 km from the city of Buzău, the county seat of Buzău County in the historical region of Wallachia, you’ll find the commune Lopătari. In one of the villages of this commune, Terca, there are the Living Fires (in Romanian: Focurile Vii) – a natural phenomenon, unique in Europe, but not unique to Romania. You’ll find a similar one, considered even more spectacular by some travelers, at Andreiaşu, a commune in Vrancea County, in the historical region of Moldovia, north of Buzău; and one in Reghiu commune, Vrancea, in the village of Răiuţi – only 8.5 km north of Andreiaşu.

Live fires are formed by the gases emanating from the earth, some hydrocarbons that ignite themselves due to friction with the soil. Sunshine helps the phenomenon and the gases burn continuously. Flame height is between 20 and 100 cm and varies with gas pressure. Closed weather extinguishes them, but they reappear as soon as the weather conditions improve and burn constantly, even in the winter. At night the picture is impressive, you can see with your eyes clumps of fire from place to place.

The living fire also has a strong religious symbolism, being known as an animal protector, but it also has a negative meaning, with high flames signaling the nearness of an earthquake.

Focul Viu (Living Fire), a natural phenomenon caused by natural gases – Photo by Melania


In a village, some people built a well. Its waters were so cold and refreshing that one sip would cure you of any disease. Those lands, however, were roamed by a terrible beast. This legendary creature, with several heads had big, red eyes that would freeze the very core of you. It would breathe out fire through his nostrils that would burn to ashes the weak, human bodies. A brave man set off to defeat this terrible beast and rode on his horse to fight the creature. Their fight happened near the well with clear, fresh waters. They fought tirelessly for two days and two nights, only stopping to drink from the magic well. The brave man eventually won having pushed the beast further towards the mountain where he cut off its heads which were spitting fire everywhere. It is for this reason, that the place where the beast died, his nostrils are still breathing out fire from under the ground to scare off the locals and show its mighty powers.

Some more pictures of the Romanian eternal flames (sources indicated for each picture):

Radu Farnoaga
IGR, Geological Institute of Romania


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One thought on “The Romanian Eternal Flames

  • November 29, 2021 at 7:26 pm

    How can hydrocarbons ignite themselves due to friction with the soil? A gas stove doesnt begin burning due to friction, otherwise matches would be unnecessary. Can it be phosphanes that are contained in the natural gas, which are selfigniting? Or a catalytic process with certain minerals? Is there any scientific literature on the subject? I am interested as a chemist in this phenomenon.

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