Centralia – The Burning City

In 1962 Centralia was just a simple coal-mining town, a home to over 2,500 people located in eastern-central Pennsylvania. Fifty years later, the residents have since abandoned their homes and an inextinguishable fire smolders beneath the city. Today Centralia remains one of America’s eeriest towns. So how did it all come to end this way?

Photograph by Don Emmert, AFP/Getty Images

Photograph by Don Emmert, AFP/Getty Images

The trouble began in the early 1960’s when workers decided to use an abandoned coal mine pit to burn their landfill. Although the flames were extinguished after a few hours, hot embers began to reach a coal vein just beneath the surface. Within a few days a new fire broke out. Workers doused the flames once more, but by now the rich coal veins below the entire town had caught fire. Over the following 20 years, firemen continued attempts to quell the burning coal countless times. They tried multiple methods – removing burning material, digging trenches, and pumping water into the mines. Firemen even made efforts to contain the fire, trying to locate the boundaries. To everyone’s dismay, nothing worked.

Photograph by Cole Young, 2008.

Photograph by Cole Young, 2008

Nonetheless, life continued in Centralia, but by 1980 the smoldering fire had released large amounts of toxic carbon monoxide fumes, reaching life-threatening levels. Some residents even experienced sink holes opening up right in front of them. To remedy the situation the federal government believed the most cost effective solution was to move the residents out of town and funded their relocation. Today, only 9 or 10 residents still remain, standing firm that it’s no longer dangerous, particularly since they have survived in the town since the fire first began.

Photograph from AP.  On Feb. 14, 1981, Todd Domboski plunged through a collapsing hole in Centralia, Pa.

Now over 50 years later, Centralia is essentially a ghost town. Many of the homes have been razed and even the zipcode has been revoked. The fire continues burning beneath the town, continually fueled by the coal deposits. An estimated total of $66 million has been spent attempting to end this difficulty. Regrettably, experts believe there is enough fuel to keep the fire burning for centuries.

With its cracked roads and small emanating plumes of smoke, the tale of Centralia is unfortunate yet fascinating. Its facade even helped inspire Silent Hill, an eerie horror video game, in which a father disappears into the ghostly town while searching for his missing adopted daughter. The following video shares real footage from 2007:

Sources: http://www.dogonews.com/2008/11/16/46-year-old-mine-fire-continues-to-smolderhttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/25/centralia-pennsylvania-fire_n_1546552.htmlhttp://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2013/01/pictures/130108-centralia-mine-fire/

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