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Abandoned Cities from Around the World: Deserted Towns and Other Derelict Places

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Author Topic: Abandoned Cities from Around the World: Deserted Towns and Other Derelict Places  (Read 1147 times)
Lisa Wolfe
Superhero Member
Posts: 4700

« Reply #60 on: June 17, 2009, 01:34:42 pm »

Centralia Pennsylvania
Centralia's Mine Fire History

Centralia - Columbia County, Pennsylvania - The fire was started in a garbage dump over an open coal seam in May of 1962.  The fire was reported and seemed to be quenched at the time, but actually continued underground.  There are many additional versions of the original cause but the garbage pit and the date are probably right.  First bid to extinguish the fire was $175.

In July of 1962, the Department of Environmental Resources started to monitor the fire.  Boreholes were drilled to check to extent and the temperature of the fire.  Some thought they also provided an natural draft which helped combustion. Gas monitors were also installed in most homes in the area above the hottest fire (the impact area).



On May 22, 1969 the first three families were moved from Centralia.   A trench was dug north of the Odd Fellows Cemetery where fly ash and clay seals were used in am attempt to put out the fire.  According to Tony Gaughan (quoted in "Slow Burn"), if the trench had been dug in three shifts per day instead of one and if they had worked through the Labor Day holiday, the fire would have been contained.   He said the project was $50,000 short of completion.

In 1980, the U.S. Bureau of Mines "Red Book" said, "The Centralia mine fire has not been extinguished and has not been controlled."  In the year twenty-seven more families were moved at a price that was comparatively less than later buy-outs.


On February 14, 1981, the ground collapsed under Todd Domboski.  A hole about 4 feet in diameter and roughly 150 feet deep had opened under him.  He clung to exposed tree roots and was pulled to safety by his cousin.  The heat or the carbon monoxide in the breach would have been sufficient to kill him instantly if he had gone just a little deeper. This incident provoked the first national media attention.


By 1983, the government said the fire was advancing on three or four fronts.  Proposed trenching of the area might cost as much as $660 million with no guarantee of success.  One of the larger trenches would have bisected the town roughly from east to west.  A government buy-out was proposed instead of the trenching and there was a referendum held.  The homeowners voted to accept the buy-out 345 to 200.  Only those whose names were on the deeds could vote.  From 1962 to 1984, $7 million had been spent.  In November of 1983, $42 million was voted for the buy-out.



In 1983, there was fire under about 350 surface acres.  By 1991, this area had been increased by about three-quarters.  Worst case scenario would be about 3700 acres and possibly a hundred years.  Finally 26 homes along Route 61 west of town were bought in April of 1991.  There were no further plans to fight the fire.   The population of Centralia as of 4/18/97 was 44 people and has dwindled since.   There are just a few scattered homes today remaining in the town along with the borough hall.  The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania owns the remaining homes.  The monetary value of each property is in escrow or tied up in the legal system.  Until the remaining people move, the future of this town is unknown.  The State is being very lenient at this time.  The State owns the homes but the remaining people are still paying the property taxes on the houses.

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