|Centralia, PA, USA|
|Centralia, PA never had a particularly large community, but it was once a lively and industrial place. The coal mining town was home to 2,761 souls, but today the population of its cemeteries far outnumbers that of its living residents. The number of events which led to the community's demise– slowly diminishing its numbers to less than a dozen– began about 40 years ago.|
In 1962, Centralia workers set a heap of trash ablaze in an abandoned mine pit which was used as the borough's landfill. In those times 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. But the coal continued to burn underground. And it rapidly migrated into the surrounding coal mines and beneath the town, causing great concern.
A more involved effort was made to contain the fire using trenches and clay seals, but the attempt was met with failure. The 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.
Several attempts were made to extinguish or contain the underground fire over the next two decades. Though the mines were flushed with water and the burning coal was excavated, the workers’ efforts were unsuccessful.
That fire still burns today beneath about four hundred acres of surface land, and it's still growing. It is considered that there is enough coal in the eight-mile vein to feed the fire for up to 250 years, but it may burn itself out in as few as 100 years. With a few residents remained in the town after the buyout, their numbers have dwindled since then to about a dozen. The majority of the unoccupied homes and buildings have been razed, and large portions of the town are being reclaimed by nature, leaving meadows crisscrossed with overgrown asphalt roads and the occasional steaming or smoking hillside.
Once Centralia was a vibrant community with five hotels, seven churches, nineteen general stores, two jewelry stores, and about twenty-six saloons. Nowadays it is a modern abandoned town whose guts have been burned out, and whose main path of ingress has been closed and detoured. Town 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. The future of the borough now is decidedly grimmer. Currently they have no further plans to extinguish the fire, and most modern maps no longer show a dot where Centralia once stood.