Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Centralia Ghost-Town

Centralia is a borough and a near-ghost town in Columbia County, Pennsylvania, United States. Its population has dwindled from over 1,000 residents in 1981 to just 7 in 2013 as a result of the Centralia mine fire that has been burning beneath the borough since 1962. Centralia is the least-populated municipality in Pennsylvania.




Centralia, Pennsylvania was never a particularly large community, but it was once a lively and industrial place. In 1962, workers set a heap of trash ablaze in an abandoned mine pit which was used as the borough's landfill. The burning of excess trash was a common practice, yet at that particular time and place there existed a dangerous condition: an exposed vein of anthracite coal. The highly flammable mineral was unexpectedly ignited by the trash fire, prompting a quick effort to put it out. The flames on the surface were successfully extinguished, but unbeknownst to the fire fighters, the coal continued to burn underground. Over the following weeks it rapidly migrated into the surrounding coal mines and beneath the town, causing great concern.


In 1969-- seven years after the fire was started-- a more involved effort was made to contain the fire using trenches and clay seals, but the attempt was met with failure. In the 1970s, concerns over the severity of the extensive subterranean fire were stirred when a gas station owner noticed that the contents of his underground fuel storage tank seemed hot, so he measured the gasoline's temperature, and found it to be a troubling 180 degrees Fahrenheit.


Numerous attempts were made to extinguish or contain the underground fire over the next two decades. The mines were flushed with water and the burning coal was excavated, but despite the persistence of the workers, their efforts were unsuccessful. The work continued for years at a great expense, with no appreciable progress.


Residents are expected to return in 2016 to open a time capsule which was buried in the town in 1966, back when the town's future was still somewhat optimistic. Its future now is decidedly more grim... There are currently no further plans to extinguish the fire, and most modern maps no longer show a dot where Centralia once stood.