You may have already heard the story of Centralia, PA, a coal mining town that had some 1,000 inhabitants at its peak. Now, that population is down to 9. It’s become a ghost town for one of the most bizarre reasons imaginable-a fire started in 1962 to burn trash in a dump inadvertently spread to a coal seam underground and has simply never stopped burning.
The most recent report, published Dec. 1st in the Bismarck Tribune, confirms that the fire continues to this day-it’s lasted an incredible 47 years so far.
The fire, which was started by five members of the volunteer fire company when they were hired by the town council to clean up the landfill, was not properly extinguished and spread to become one of the longest burning coal fires.
According to Thinking Blog, which provides a short history of the fire, the landfill was located in an abandoned strip mine pit and as the firemen had in the past, they set the dump on fire, let it burn for a time, and then extinguished the fire, or so they thought.
It turns out the fire spread through a hole in the rock pit into an abandoned coal mine underground, where it grew in intensity. It continued to rage for years, putting the towns’ citizens at grave risk, writes Thinking Blog:
State-wide attention to the fire began to increase, culminating in 1981 when 12-year-old boy fell into a sinkhole 45 metres deep that suddenly opened beneath his feet. He was saved after his older cousin pulled him from the mouth of the hole before he could plunge to his probable death. The incident brought national attention to Centralia and in 1984 U.S. Congress allocated more than $42 million for relocation efforts.
Now, a mere 9 people continue to live on the hazardous lands, while the fire is now thought to have spread to an area of over 500 acres. Some worst-case scenario estimates fear the fire could eventually spread to an area of 3700 acres, and burn for another 100 years. Centralia’s history was the inspiration for the horror film Silent Hill.