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Centralia

It was May of 1962, and the coal-mining town of Centralia, Pa was about to undergo an event that would not only change it, but eventually lead to its demise.   A long-lived landfill had frustrated locals, leading them to burn it, hoping to rid themselves and their town of its appearance.  Everything was considered a success, until the smell of sulfur and smoldering smoke caught peoples' attention.  Apparently, the bonfire had ignited an exposed vein of coal.  At first, it was assumed that the fire would smother itself out.  However, as the fire expanded into an area the size of a front lawn, people began to realize the seriousness of the situation.  Initially, a quote of $175.00 was given (http://www.offroaders.com) to extinguish the fire, but many considered this to be too expensive.  As the fire began to rapidly expand even further,  people started to realize that the first bid was not so bad after all.  Quotes to extinguish the fire rose to tens of thousands of dollars, and large scale efforts began to emerge.  However, the underground fire was so intense that even the greatest efforts were unsuccessful, with the largest being abandoned just $50,000 short of completion.  The DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) installed "chimneys" to allow air to enter and exit the underground mine fire, hoping to speed up its burning process.  This is exactly what happened, as the fire expanded into the city of Centralia.  In May of 1969, several families were evacuated from their homes, which had now found themselves directly over the underground blaze.  The fire expanded exponentially into other areas of the city, wreaking havoc as it went.  Eventually the town became practically abandoned.  Businesses were closed, families had left, and houses had burnt to the ground.  Large cracks began to form in the ground to allow the gases to escape.  The town of Centralia had dropped from a population of about 1,000 to less than 15. 

Today, Centralia is practically non existent.  Although it shows on maps and road signs, the town has pretty much become a tourist attraction.  The area where houses once stood is now just an empty grid of streets.  The valley has no living trees, due to the massive amounts of poisonous gases that the fire emits.  The area smells of steam and sulfur, and makes you sick if you stay there too long.  Power lines have begun to fray.  Steam and smoke rise from the surrounding hills, a true sign that the fire that destroyed the town remains in the close distance.  Driving east on Route 61, one would never know that such an area exists.  The section of Route 61 that entered into Centralia has been bypassed due to the damage done to the road surface - cracks, undulations, steam,  and swelling.  However, it can still be explored if you know where to look.  Some cracks are large enough to crawl into, but be careful of the hot steam.  Some parts of the ground are too hot to touch.  I have even seen videos of it melting peoples shoes, and lighting matches on contact.  Very intriguing....just be careful. 

The Centralia Mine Fire has enough fuel to burn for almost 1,000 years.

 

One of the few remaining abandoned houses One of the once busy streets

Coal in the surrounding lands, just begging to be ignited Smoke surrounds Steve

More smoke <<Our first Centralian encounter>>

Abandoned Rt. 61  Steve being an idiot Panoramic view of Rt. 61

The only hint that Centralia exists....A burnt valley

The hill above Centralia continues to burn... Some steam The burning valley

More burning valley Even more burning valley

 

Notice no snow in these areas....yes, the fire is that warm.....


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