Centralia: Along Pa Route 61 stands the remains of a town destroyed by an underground mine fire
Pa’s Hell Town Centralia the 1000 year coal fire.
In 1962 a fire in the trash dump in Centralia caught one of the underground veins of coal that run through Pa’s coal country. Most of the times these coal fires burn themselves out. The underground fires are fairly common in the region and the Centralia residents did not feel the need to prevent the spread of the fire.
In the later 1970’s the fire that had been burning for years started to affect the people of Centralia. There were cases of carbon monoxide poisoning and trees started to die. People started moving.
In the early 1980’s the government started buying the houses and demolishing them leaving a scattering of residents who remained. In 1991 the government bought the last remaining houses, but there are a few residents who refuse to leave their homes even though there is nothing in this town anymore.
Visiting Centralia is fascinating. I was through this town in the 1980’s and it was odd then to see the Swiss cheese effect on the houses in town. It was one house then two lots then one house three lots. It left an impression on my 9 year old mind. How could it not? A town where the whole underground is on fire beneath your feet is something out of a comic book.
My wife and I visited Centralia in the summertime and there was almost nothing left to the town. Less than ten houses and a few abandoned trailers make up Centralia of today. Most of the streets are overgrown and it’s tough to realize that there was a town that you are driving through. Walking on the closed portion of Route 61 and peering into the gaping hole in the road is worth the trip alone. The acrid smell and heat coming from the “Gate’s of Hell” is an experience that I know I will never forget.
I have heard that Centralia will burn for over 1000 years, since there will be enough coal to keep it going. So you do have time to check it out. Centralia is on Route 61 near route 42. You can get there off of Exit 124 of Route 81. It off of most maps now so you may have to ask a few people.