Slow Burn in Centralia

Fifty years ago today, workers in Centralia, PA, began burning trash at a site over an old mine entrance just outside of the town. That fire is still burning to this day. The fire ignited the coal and then continued to spread underground. Officials spent twenty years trying to put it out, but each effort failed. Eventually, between gasses it releases, and the extreme heat and pressures that causes the ground to destabilize and result in fissures and sinkholes the town of Centralia eventually decided to close shop. For the most part, Centralia exists today as a site that encompasses a number of types of disasters: industrial, environmental, economic, and individual. That last one comes into play because, like the story of Treece I posted last week, not everyone has abandoned Centralia. Despite the site now being owned by the state and most of the town’s buildings and homes being bulldozed, a few folks still insist on calling Centralia home.

I’ve seen two decent stories about Centralia in the last couple days. The first is an AP story collected at Huffington Post focuses a bit more on the former towns residents today and includes some pictures. The second, a story from Smithsonian.com by Kevin Krajick focuses on the story of the coal fire on a larger scale. The scope of this coal fire is impressive to say the least, but the fact that stood out to me is the sheer number of these sorts of fires that are raging throughout the world at this moment.

As I said in my link to the story about Treece, I suspect I’ll be coming back to write about these stories in the future.

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