CENTRALIA, PA, USA - UNDERGROUND COAL FIRE
One of the most devastating mine fires in the state of Pennsylvania occurred in the city of Centralia in 1962.
Firemen and other various groups of workers were ordered to help divert trash from the local dump- but the way they had helped out may not have been the smartest idea, being that Centralia was one of many Pennsylvania boroughs. (A small community based on industrial work such as mining coal and anthracite coal). The way they had planned on getting rid of the trash was to light it on fire, not expecting the fire to spread to the anthracite coal mines below. The dump was right above an abandoned mine pit. It eventually spread through the entire city within a week or two.
Miners were given a set of guidelines when mining these veins of anthracite coal, which they were supposed to place a layer of clay in between each layer of coal mined, but in the area where they had been placing the trash, they did not follow through with placing clay to block any passage to other veins, giving the fire an easy way to spread underground.
In 1969, 7 years after the fire had started, the community had began to place clay seals around the open pits and underground expecting it to keep the fire from spreading above the ground. It unfortunately did not work. Over the next two decades the mines were flushed out with large amounts of water, but to no avail.
The community didn’t receive much media attention until the early 80’s when a boy named Todd Domboski fell into a hole in his back yard which had collapsed beneath him as a result of the fires below. The sinkhole was rather large; and had enough carbon monoxide and other lethal chemicals to have easily killed him in seconds. Luckily his cousin was there to save him from falling all the way down the 150 foot drop.
The U.S. government has spent nearly $42 million dollars in attempts to extinguish the fire and then later relocating the residents. The fire is still burning today and is ever growing. There is enough coal below the town to burn for over 250 years, with fears of it spreading to neighbouring areas.
Today, it is a modern ghost town. Many of the previous residents will return to open a time capsule in 2016, which was buried 50 years prior.
Source/Further Reading: http://www.damninteresting.com/the-smoldering-ruins-of-centralia/
Photo Credit: http://agreenliving.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/1ed9372208underground-coal-fire-500x331.jpg
I went to Centralia, PA last semester for my Environmental Hazards class.
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