Saturday, January 10, 2015

Massive Underground Coal Fire Started in 1962 Still Burns Today (12 Pics)

 Before 1962, Centralia, Pennsylvania, was a prosperous borough in the Bloomsburg-Berwick area of Pennsylvania. Today, Centralia is almost completely abandoned. You might even justifiably call it a ghost town.

So, what happened there? A slow-burning mine fire was accidentally started in 1962, and still burns today. This catastrophe forced nearly all residents from the area. In fact, the vast majority of town land has been claimed by the state under eminent domain, and the buildings are mostly demolished.

Centralia was once a coal mining town. Its first mines opened in 1856. However, when the stock market crashed in 1929, many of the mines were abandoned.

In 1962, with a population of almost 2,000 residents, a fire somehow started in one of the area's many abandoned mines, igniting a rich vein of coal.

There are conflicting reports regarding how the 1962 mine fire started. Some historians believe that burning garbage from a nearby landfill ignited a vein of coal. Others say that a truck driver dumped smoldering coals into a trash pit and that started the fire. No one can be sure.

The fire that began in 1962 is still burning to this day.

At first, the fire was just restricted to the outskirts of Centralia. Soon, though, it began to slowly make its way through in the huge network of abandoned mines running under Centralia.

By 1979, residents began to realize the scale of the fire. According to legend, it was a gas station owner who noticed the danger. Allegedly, he opened up his tanks one night to check their levels...and realized they were incredibly hot.

In 1981, a 12-year-old boy in Centralia was nearly swallowed by a sinkhole that suddenly opened in his backyard. When the hole opened, it also belched out deadly levels of carbon dioxide.

Not long after that, the federal government allocated funds for the town's residents to be relocated. By 1992, most residents had taken buyouts and moved on. This was when most of the town was claimed by eminent domain, and then demolished. Below is what Centralia's Main Street used to look like.

During this time, the state also began closing the roads around Centralia. Now, the only way to enter the main area of town is on foot.

Not everyone left Centralia, though. There are still about 10 residents left in the town. For many years, they fought the 1992 eminent domain decision. In 2013, they finally reached a settlement with the state. They would be allowed them to live out the rest of their lives in Centralia, after which the state will take over their properties.

Today, the town has been reduced to a large field with a few decaying roads running through it. In addition to the few remaining houses, there are still several well-maintained cemeteries. There is also the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church on the outskirts of town, away from the fire. The church still holds regular services and celebrated its 100 anniversary in 2011.

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