From Beneath You, It Devours.
January 11, 2003 10:10 AM   Subscribe

Centralia, PA is a small town on top of rich, seemingly inexhaustible coal reserves in rural Pennsylvania. In May of 1962, an above ground fire ignited these underground coal mines, and the fires have burned ever since, for forty years straight. The towns population (and landscape) have been decimated. More info here.
posted by jonson (11 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I grew up not far from there. Many a Sunday drive included proceeding slowly through Centralia just to watch the smoke rising through the cracks in the highway.

The fire fascinates me even more in the long-term since coal veins run under the entire area. Since there's no attempts or ideas on how to put it out, in the long term (maybe the long, long term), I imagine a large radius of towns will be affected the same way.

On a lighter note, an absolutely maudlin song on about the situation. It's a hoot.
posted by Mrmuhnrmuh at 11:12 AM on January 11, 2003 [1 favorite]

That song rocks. In the vein of Galveston, or The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
posted by jonson at 11:37 AM on January 11, 2003

This is probably the road you used to drive on, it has been closed for well over ten years now. (View Larger)

Detail of the sign at the right of the above picture. (View Larger)
posted by RevGreg at 11:59 AM on January 11, 2003

To continue with the Centralia song theme, I present an entire (Dante-themed) musical: Inferno

I haven't seen/heard it myself, but, Squonk, one of the other shows by the same group is pretty incredible.
posted by tragedy_and_comedy at 12:10 PM on January 11, 2003

As an ex-Pennsyltuckian, I've been to Centralia many times. If you plan to visit, the best times to go (for maximum smoke rising from fissures in the earth) is either on the day after rainfall or a cold day. It sort of sucks in the summer. It was a lot better in the late 90's, because there were several buildings that had been abandoned by the mining company. You could crawl around inside of them and steal a souvenir core sample! It was punk as fuck.
posted by rachelpapers at 12:22 PM on January 11, 2003

am I the only one that got the buffy reference?!
posted by mcsweetie at 12:34 PM on January 11, 2003

James Finney Boylan's 1991 novel The Planets is set in Centralia, and was my introduction to the town, which I have yet to visit. The descriptions of the smoking fissures remind me of Hawaii's steam vents.
posted by Songdog at 12:53 PM on January 11, 2003

mcsweetie: yes.
posted by jonson at 1:21 PM on January 11, 2003

These underground coal seam fires are absolutely amazing. Of course, having parents that live in Colorado, this made me think of this last summers Coal Seam wildfire near Glenwood Springs Colorado. (More info here.
posted by piper28 at 10:22 PM on January 11, 2003

Hmm, and while poking around Denver news sites, I also ran across this article on attempts to extinguish underground coal seam fires. (Interesting note, apparently this one dates back to 1910, so those things just keep burning).
posted by piper28 at 10:30 PM on January 11, 2003

Back when the Molly Maguires were at the height of their influence in the coal-mining regions, a priest at St. Ignatius's RC Church in Centralia delivered a scathing sermon on their supposed excesses. Later he was savagely beaten -- his cries for help to the local townsfolk were ignored. It is recorded that he cursed the town to eternal hellfire. Granted, it took several decades, but he finally got his wish.
posted by RavinDave at 11:24 PM on January 11, 2003

« Older When You Wish Upon A Blog   |   deathrow Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments