Ghost Towns from Around the World: Tuesday Centralia, Pennsylvania

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.

Centralia fire.

Why anyone would remain here, I have no clue.

Here’s the story of Centralia:

In 1962, some volunteer firemen were brought in to burn the towns 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.

Centralia fire.

Seriously, stay away from 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.

Centralia sinkhole.

One of the many sinkholes in Centralia.

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

Centralia.

Centralia, as it can be seen today.

3 thoughts on “Ghost Towns from Around the World: Tuesday Centralia, Pennsylvania

  1. eli guy

    I find this town rather interesting. It would be fun to visit, but on the issues of safety I’d decide against it by using my better judgement. I also have read the locals don’t like visitors much to to many of them leaving grafiti. Still to look at things not hardly touched other than by nature for so long would be fascinating. A town to explore as it was when the people left aside from years of decay and of course the ground opening up further due to more coal being burned that once support that ground.

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