Have you ever heard of Centralia Pennsylvania? It is a small borough in northern Pennsylvania. Centralia is unique because it has become a complete ghost town. The reason it became an abandoned town is because of the Centralia mine fire that occurred in May 1962. There is some disagreement about how the fire started, but some claim that a planned fire in the local landfill was the initial culprit. Others claim that hot ash or coal was dumped into an open trash pit. Regardless of how the fire started, the end result was devastating for the town of Centralia. After the fire was started, it spread to the underground coal mines. Workers attempt to put the underground fire out by forcing fly ash and water into the mines. Their attempts were ineffective and the fires continued to burn. Knowing there was little that could be done about the underground fires, the town residents continued to live and work in Centralia.
By 1979, (yes, 17 years after the fire started!) people began to pay more attention to the underground fire. A gas station owner was checking his underground fuel tanks and discovered that the gas temperature was very high. The state of Pennsylvania began to pay more attention to the fires that continued to burn underground. In 1981, a large sink hole suddenly opened up and a 12-year-old fell in. Thankfully, the child’s cousin was able to pull him out of the 4 foot wide sinkhole. The steam that rose from the sinkhole was examined. The examination of the contents revealed that deadly concentrations of carbon monoxide were being released.
The popular phrase “out of sight, out of mind” can describe the way Centralia residents felt for many years. Although there were some visible signs of the underground fire after it began, many residents were unconcerned about their safety. However, as the years passed it became increasingly clear that the fire presented some health risks to residents. During the 1960 census, 1,435 people resided in Centralia. This number declined over the years as a result of the mine fires raging underground. By 1990, the number of people residing in Centralia dropped to 63. Numbers continued to decrease as years passed.