An accidental fire in an underground coal mine has been burning since 1962, forcing residents to abandon their homes and leaving Centralia a ghost town.

It was Memorial Day weekend 1962 that Centralia, Pennsylvania, went down in flames. Literally.
Local firefighters were burning the town landfill as approved in preparation for the holiday. But things went wrong, the fire crept into an anthracite mine underground and that was that. The fire has been burning ever since, forcing Centralia residents to leave and never return as their homes filled with carbon monoxide and roads opened wide, melting from within. By 2002, the town’s zip code was revoked. Tourists now visit the abandoned city to photograph what’s left as steam rises from empty streets.

Did You Know?

  1. Anthracite has the highest carbon content of all coal varieties and is used for power generation.
  2. In Centralia, PA, firefighters started a landfill on fire to clear ground for the town’s Memorial Day festivities.
  3. The landfill was on top of an old strip mine and accidentally hit a vein of exposed coal, taking the fire underground.
  4. Firefighters spent hours, then days, then weeks fighting the underground blaze to no avail.
  5. Currently the fire is burning 300 feet underground and eight miles wide with no signs of stopping.
  6. Some estimates suggest the fire could burn for another 250 years thanks to the still-abundant coal supply.
  7. If it does burn that long, it will still pale in comparison to the Burning Mountain in Australia, on fire for more than 6,000 years.
  8. In 1983, the US government allocated $42 million to relocate Centralia’s residents; some refused to leave until recently.
  9. Another $1.4 million was spent in 2014 to fight the fire as it started threatening the Pittsburgh International Airport.
  10. Centralia is the inspiration for the town of Silent Hill in the game of the same name.

Sources

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Amber Healy

Amber Healy has been writing, both personally and professionally, since she nagged her hometown paper to give her an internship in 1996. She's a big believer that the most fascinating stories are hidden under layers of seemingly boring drivel.