The Pennsylvania town that's been on fire for 50 years


Very interesting but not unusual as stated in the article or by Driscoll. Hence low civilizations concept of eternal fire and ‘HELL’. Got too start from somewhere.

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Alan Moore’s epic American Gothic in Swamp Thing featured this town back in the late 1980s

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When I lived in Scranton, I used to take a day-trip that would involve a visit to Roadside America in Shartlesville, and Centralia.


Did you visit Dunder Mifflin too? :stuck_out_tongue:

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Ready for fracking then…

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Someone really should call the fire department.

A lot of my wife’s family comes from the region, so I’ve been through Centralia plenty of times in the last 20 years. I’ve watched it slowly empty out to the weird, near-ghost town it now is. The fire’s damage reached a point that the main state road that led into town had to be detoured and a new road built to replace it, further isolating the town. The original road now is partially collapsed and you could melt your tires if you drove on the wrong spots.

Last I checked there were still 5 or 6 residents who refuse to leave, but they are dying off or just finally getting tired of being so isolated. Eventually the town will be totally empty.

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That’s funny. The fire department building is one of the buildings that still remain in town.

Are there still the empty plots that somebody comes in to mow?

I love when people feature stories about Centralia. My extended family still lives in the region. I have been through there so many times. The weirdest thing is that the two cemeteries on the outskirts of the town look perfect. While the rest of the town looks bad because no grass really grows (the ground is too hot) the cemeteries look pristine.

When it rains you can hear the sizzle as the water evaporates on the ground. In the winter the snow does not really stick because the ground is too hot.

I first heard this story when I was a kid. I simply can’t comprehend either the physics or the economics here. It frightens me, because I wonder if the rest of creation might be equally weird with a thin veneer of normalcy, like a Lovecraft story.

The physics is pretty straightforward, the coal is burning in much the same way it does in a stove. There’s enough cracks in the ground, and man-made tunnels to allow oxygen to reach the fire to allow it to keep going, but only slowly. It’s still burning because there’s a hell of a lot of coal there (and it’s burning slowly).
As for the economics, it’s a really big fire, in a difficult to reach location, and it’s not affecting anyone important*.
(* important to the mining companies that is.)

I used to pass through there in the late 1990s on my way to and from college a couple times a year. At the time there were a couple houses left, the fire department and I think a store called the Speed Spot. There might have been a few foundations left, but most buildings had been torn down.

From what I recall the houses had brick buttresses against one side, like extra chimneys. I assumed they had used to be row homes and the buttresses were needed to keep them up when the ones around had been torn down.

Sometimes sections of ground would smoke a bit. Once the cemetery itself seemed to be smoking. But its not just the town that’s eerie. The town is in the mountains, but as you drive down out of it you start to notice that the hills around you aren’t just regular mountainside. You’re driving through a valley between massive piles of coal slag or some other sort of rubble just piled up and left there indefinitely. Only white birch trees seemed to grow sparsely on those piles (due to acidity?).

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From what I recall seeing and reading, those were actually extra chimneys – to vent out gasses from the basement, basically. Crazy!

The empty, still-groomed plots of land were the saddest thing. Somebody’s family lived there, grew up there, laughed and cried there. Then got paid to move elsewhere and their house demolished. But they kept coming back anyway…

Er, uh… <maudlin />

Not anywhere near so serious, but Merritt BC has had an underground coal fire for a very long time as well.On the hill on the eastern side of town you can watch the smoke/steam rise from the ground on calm days. As I understand it, so one knows how deep or wide the fire goes.

#We could fix Centralia.

Diverting a large part of the Susquehanna into the mine for a couple of years would do it. It would cost less than a year of corporate welfare or six months of foreign military adventuring. It would be easier than building the C & D or Erie or Panama Canals, and we did all three of those, despite the environmental degradation and other issues that resulted.

It’s unlikely to get fixed because most of the 1% ruling class see scarcity and resource depletion as social goods - and burning up coal uselessly not only depletes the supply of coal, it depletes the supply of clean air.

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