Fifty years ago today, a coal seam caught fire in Centralia, Pennsylvania, causing the mines beneath the town to catch fire. While the decades-old fire has caused most residents to abandon the town, a few holdouts remain.
We mentioned Centralia among our "Underground Fires that Burn for Decades" (along with Uzbekistan's so-called "Door to Hell") and our "Greatest Fossil Fuel Disasters In Human History." It's believed that the Centralia fire started when a group of men set fire to some local refuse located near the opening of an abandoned strip-mine. The fire, which started on May 27th, 1962, spread throughout the city's mines, and with plenty of coal to fuel it, has burned ever since. Lethal levels of carbon monoxide spew from cracks in the Earth. The ground is uncomfortably hot in some places. Because the road buckled and became too expensive to repair, the Centralia branches of Pennsylvania Routes 54 and 61 were permanently closed. Concerned about the safety of the residents, the US Congress bought out most of the city's residents in 1984, and in 1992, Pennsylvania's governor seized the remaining homes under eminent domain, declaring the region condemned.