An Abandoned Town Is On Fire For 58 Years

Oct 07, 2020Peter File

People come and go, and as time goes by, people get on with their lives, going to new places looking for new opportunities, and places get deserted and become a ghost town. However, a town in Pennsylvania became a ghost town for a rather obscure reason. Read on to discover more about this ghost town. 


Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Tom Vazquez

The town is called Centralia. Located in Columbia County, Pennsylvania, it was by no means a big town, to begin with. Its history can be traced back to the 18th century when the Native American tribes in the area sold off the land to the colonial agents in 1749, which would later become what was known as Centralia. 



Image Credits: Pixabay/Pavlofox/For Illustrative Purposes

One thing special about Centralia is the abundance of anthracite - to those who don't know what that is, anthracite is basically hard coal, and is considered the best kind of coal there is among the other variants. However, it was only in the mid 19th century when this aspect of Centralia gained its reputation. 


Image Credits: Getty Images/Universal Images Group/Universal History Archive/For Illustrative Purposes

In 1842, the town was acquired by the Locust Mountain Coal and Iron Company, and it was under one man that the town would become the place that we know of today - Alexander Rae. A mining engineer himself, he and his family relocated to the area and pushed forward plans for future developments. He named the town Centreville, but for some reason it was changed to Centralia...

Laying Down Infrastructures 

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A decade before it became Centralia, when it was still Centreville, mining operations were underway during the 1850s. In 1854, infrastructures were put in place in preparation for the mining operations, and the Mine Run Railroad was built that year to carry coal out of the valley. Two years later, mining operations would officially begin. 

The Peak of Centralia

Image Credits: Pixabay/hangela/For Illustrative Purposes

A fine example of a small American town, Centralia reached its peak in 1890 according to the Federal census records - population reached its all-time peak of 2,761 that year, and there were seven churches, five hotels, 27 saloons, two theaters, a bank, a post office, and 14 general and grocery stores at its peak. However, the events that unfolded over the years that followed would alter its course dramatically. 

The Great Depression Era 

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WWI broke out and young men fought for their country, some never returned. Then the great depression happened, sending the entire nation into dire poverty. Centralia was no exception to that, as the Lehigh Valley Coal Company closed five of its Centralia-local mines, hugely affecting the livelihood of the local miners. It was then when some bootleg miners continued their operations in idle mines, with a technique called "pillar-robbing."

Pillar Robbing 

Image Credits: Getty Images/Hulton Archive/For Illustrative Purposes

Pillar robbing is a dangerous technique used by various miners, especially bootleg miners where proper funding and equipment cannot be secured - they did so by mining coal from coal pillars supporting the roofs, an action that would compromise the structure of the mine shafts - and it did. A lot of tunnels collapsed because of that, which would play an important role in the events that followed. 


Image Credits: Getty Images/The LIFE Picture Collection/Michael Rougier/For Illustrative Purposes

Something happened in 1962 that would alter the course of history forever, changing the lives of those who lived there. Nobody knew how it happened exactly, but then the only thing they knew was that there was a fire, and the fire soon spread all over the town. 

The Curse Beneath 

Image Credits: Pixabay/Rudy and Peter Skitterians/For Illustrative Purposes

Perhaps it wouldn't be correct to say that the fire spread around town, as the town itself was no fire - it was the mine shafts beneath the ground. Before they knew it, the fire spread from one mineshaft to another, creating a terror that cannot be saved, a nightmare that never ended. 

Futile Attempts 

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There had been various attempts at keeping the fire under control - however, due to the number of tunnels lurking beneath, intertwined with one another, it was extremely difficult to even assess the damage. Moreover, due to the pillar-robbing that took place decades prior, some tunnels were simply inaccessible - the fate for Centralia was sealed. 

The Fire Raged On 

Image Credits: Flickr/Douglas Muth

At first, some people thought that the fire might simply go out by itself, especially that it was virtually impossible for them to close off all the tunnels and stop the fire. But years after years, the fire never stopped - it only got worse. People would see smoke seeping through their basements; smokes would pour out from the sinkholes. There were also other ghastly incidents that happened because of that. 

Todd Domboski

Image Credits: Flickr/Travis Goodspeed

In 1982, two decades since the fire started, a twelve-year-old boy called Todd Domboski fell into a hot, steaming hole, a hole that was created by the fire lurking beneath the town. Luckily his cousin found him in time to pull himself - with the high level of carbon monoxide releasing from that sinkhole, within a matter of minutes Todd would've fainted if not for his cousin. With all the events that happened, they decided that they need to do something about it. 


Image Credits: Flickr/Lyndi & Jason

By then it was too late to do anything about the fire - no one can. Congress is aware of the situation, and they decided that the best course of action would be to buy out the residents. In 1992, Congress made a decision to evacuate all residents in the area - Centralia was no more. 


Image Credits: Flickr/Cole Young

Residents were compensated to relocate elsewhere. For those who wished to stay and became holdouts - that wasn't really an option, as authorities tried to remove them from their properties as well; beyond that, Centralia was also eliminated officially with the ZIP code removed. Seven residents remained via court order, but they were not allowed to sell the property nor to pass it down. That's the end of a once-thriving coal-mining town. 


Image Credits: Flickr/Sue

Today, Centralia is merely a ghost town, with barely a soul in sight. Not just that, but the fire raged on, even till this very day, 58 years since it started. If you happened to drive nearby, you might be able to see smoke coming through the gaps on the road, with the heated path beneath you... a once-thriving community is now a nightmarish land, desolate, and soon to be forgotten. 

This is the story of how a once-thriving mining town became a resolute ghost town. It's hard to believe that the fire is still ignited but the truth is that no one knows how many more years it would continue burning. What do you think of this place? Do you think the fire would go out one day? Or have you been there before? If you enjoyed reading this, why not share it with your friends and family? 

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