In May 1962, the small mining town in Pennsylvania wanted to get rid of some waste. Despite warnings, the local fire department lit up rubbish in a disused mine. The idea was to burn up the rubbish. The only problem was that there were cracks in the rock and the coal in old mining tunnels was ignited. Afterwards, it has burned continuously in Centralia and will probably burn for another 250 years.
The fire in Centralia started with burning rubbish
The people used an old open pit to empty rubbish. Every year, the local fire brigade was given the task of getting rid of the rubbish. Every year they lit it and let it burn up. Without any problems. But in 1962, the rubbish was collected in a slightly different place than before. There were cracks along the walls of the rock by the rubbish. The warnings that the cracks could lead to closed mine tunnels under the open mine were not heard.
The five firefighters did as they used to do. Lighted and let the rubbish burn up. But this time it did not go very well. The flames found their way through the cracks and ignited the coal in the closed mines.
They tried to put out the fire
Many attempts have been made to stop the fire. But to little avail. Today it burns inside the montain in a 13 km long crack, spread over a et 15 km² large area. It burns violently in the coal deposits underground.
Toxic gases rise through cracks in the ground and the ground has suffered major crack damage, including the road network. This has meant that the city today is almost vacated. When the fire started in 1962, between 1500 and 2000 people lived in Centralia. Today, the small town looks like a ghost town.
Created by humans
The fire in Centralia is a result of people not taking warnings seriously. There are similar fires elsewhere in the world as well. In Turkmenistan, it has been burning since 1971 in what is referred to as the “Gateway to Hell”. Soviet geologists drilled here, drilling in the desert. By chance, they hit a pocket of gas. Since then it has burned and today there is a large crater there.