|Centralia at dusk. Most of the former borough blocks are now entirely clear of residences. Photo credit: Mredden via Wikimedia Commons.|
|A portion of Route 61, Centralia, PA. Photo credit: JohnDS via Wikimedia Commons|
Centralia, Pennsylvania, USA: population in 2010, 10. The zip code has been revoked by the US Postal Service. It's a ghost town, and its story would make a wonderful setting for a science fiction movie. Unfortunately, Centralia's accidental demise is a sad but true tale.
"This was a world where no human could live, hotter than the planet Mercury, its atmosphere as poisonous as Saturn's. At the heart of the fire, temperatures easily exceeded 1,000 degrees [Fahrenheit]. Lethal clouds of carbon monoxide and other gases swirled through the rock chambers." - David DeKok (1986)
The general consensus is that the mine fire which has been burning underground since May 1962 started in a landfill which was located in an old mining pit. Fire penetrated the lining of the trash pit and ignited the remaining coal seams which lay under the town of Centralia. The fire continued to resist efforts to extinguish it; throughout the 60s and 70s, sinkholes appeared periodically, steam vents in the ground spewed carbon monoxide, and the extreme heat posed a danger to underground fuel storage tanks and pipes.
In 1982 Congress approved money for relocation efforts, and a large portion of Centralia's population accepted buy-outs. In 1992, the state claimed eminent domain over all of the properties and condemned structures. A few residents continue to fight eviction.
It is estimated that upward of 24 million tons of coal remain under Centralia, enough to fuel the fires for 1000 years or more.
Centralia is accessible, although signs warn of the dangers of sinkholes, toxic gases, and superheated steam below the surface. Travel there at your own peril.
|Where the Highway Cuts off Because of the Centralia Mine Fire. Photo credit: CapturinG - HistorY via Wikimedia Commons|
|Warning sign on PA 61 in Centralia. Photo credit: Lyndi & Jason via Wikimedia Commons|