Centralia, the mouth of Hell

15 marzo 2007

In 1962, a little fire in Centralia (Pennsylvania) migrated into an exposed vein of anthracite coal under the town. The flames on the surface were successfully extinguished, but the coal continued to burn underground for many years, so that in 1984 the fire was completely out of control and the city had to be evacuated.

Nowadays, Centralia is an abandoned and ghostly place. The fire still burns beneath the town and there is enough coal to feed the fire for up to 250 years.

The ruins of Centralia no longer exists on some maps. Most of the buildings have been razed, and at casual glance the area now appears to be a meadow with several paved streets through it. According to Wikipedia, the only indications of the fire are low round metal steam vents in the south of the borough, and several signs warning of underground fire, unstable ground, and carbon monoxide.

Additional smoke and steam can be seen coming from an abandoned portion of Pennsylvania Route 61, which was closed in the 1990s after several large cracks appeared on the road, the area just behind the hilltop cemetery, and various other cracks in the ground scattered about the area.

As Alan Bellows explains in his fantastic article, the fire drew national media attention in 1981, when the ground crumbled beneath the feet of twelve-year-old boy who almost died.

In the 1970s, a gas station owner had noticed that the contents of his underground fuel storage tank seemed hot, so he measured the gasoline's temperature, and found it to be a troubling 180 degrees Fahrenheit.

In 1984, Congress allocated more than $42 million for relocation efforts. Most of the residents accepted buyout offers and moved to nearby towns. A few families opted to stay despite warnings from state officials, but in 1992, Pennsylvania claimed eminent domain on all properties, condemning all the buildings within the borough.

More info and sources: 1, 2, 3, 4 / See more: Abandoned places