So, yesterday we saw what happened when a whole town was left to be consumed by the harsh desert. Today, though, we are traveling a little closer to home – Centralia, Pennsylvania, a ghost town that may be a little more comparable to hell on Earth.
Centralia is a borough located in Columbia County, Pennsylvania. Since 1981, its population has dwindled from over 1,000 to its current number of seven. (The fact that even seven people still live there is baffling.) If you take a minute to look on any recently published maps, Centralia isn’t there – it has been wiped away from geographic recordings of history. Even with the few people that live there, Centralia is a ghost town.
Here’s the story of Centralia:
In 1962, some volunteer firemen were brought in to burn the town’s landfill, which happened to be located on an abandoned strip mine. The strip mine was connected to a massive coal vein running near the surface. When the firemen lit the landfill on fire, they also happened to light the coal vein, causing a massive fire to burn beneath Centralia.
Let me point something out though: the fire went unnoticed for seventeen years, from 1962 to 1979. Remember, coal burns very slowly, and a massive vein burns even slower. For seventeen years, the whole town was living normal lives above a gigantic coal-burning fire, unaware of the extreme danger they were in.
In 1979, a gas-station owner, and then mayor, John Coddington, tested the fuel level in his gas tanks. He noticed the fuel was hot, much too hot for normal storing conditions. He tested the temperature and found it to be at 172 degrees Fahrenheit. But, the problem did not receive massive attention until 1981, when a sinkhole that was four feet wide by 150 feet deep suddenly opened underneath the feet of a 12-year-old resident.
Now, you may be thinking, “Phew, glad Centralia is dealt with and that fire is out.” Wrong, the fire is still burning today. There has been a massive, toxin-spewing fire burning underneath the town of Centralia for the last 49 years. And seven people still live there…