Centralia, Pennsylvania: A Town Condemned By The Fire Beneath It

By | March 16, 2019

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The Real Silent Hill aka Centralia, PA. Source: (onlyinyourstate.com)

Underground coal fires are neither new or rare. In fact, they are burning on every continent except Antarctica, with more than one hundred in the U.S. alone, though some geologists estimate that number to actually be closer to two hundred. For the most part, these fires are so deep underground that they go unnoticed except by those unfortunate enough to live near them. That is not the case; however, for the fire burning beneath Centralia, Pennsylvania.

While no one knows for sure how the fire beneath Centralia started, many believe it began on May 27, 1962, the Sunday before Memorial Day, when the city council implemented its plan to incinerate the local landfill which happened to be positioned on top of an old coal mine. The fire ignited a coal vein and spread throughout the mine. Despite attempts to extinguish the fire, it has been burning ever since.

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Centralia as seen from South Street, July 2010. Source: (Wikipedia.org)

For weeks after the fire started, firefighters would put out visible flames only to have them resurface days later. Eventually, the visible fires disappeared; however, the smell of burning trash and coal persisted. Efforts to extinguish the fire continued for years. When pumping water into the mines didn’t work, they tried to smother it by covering the surface with clay. Other attempts involved pumping a mixture of ash, rocks, and water into the mine. But all of their efforts were in vain as the fire continued to burn.