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Centralia, Pennsylvania

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Lisa Wolfe
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« on: June 17, 2010, 01:19:44 pm »

Centralia, Pennsylvania

Centralia is a borough and ghost town in Columbia County, Pennsylvania, United States. Its population has dwindled from over 1,000 residents in 1981 to 12 in 2005[1] and 9 in 2007,[2] as a result of a mine fire burning beneath the borough since 1962. Centralia is now the least-populous municipality in Pennsylvania, with four fewer residents than the borough of S.N.P.J..

Centralia is part of the Bloomsburg–Berwick Micropolitan Statistical Area. The borough is completely surrounded by Conyngham Township.

All properties in the borough were claimed under eminent domain by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1992 (and all buildings therein were condemned), and Centralia's ZIP code was revoked by the Post Office in 2002.[1] However, a few residents continue to reside there in spite of a failed lawsuit to reverse the eminent domain claim.

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Lisa Wolfe
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« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2010, 01:20:25 pm »



A view of Centralia
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« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2010, 01:20:58 pm »


Map showing Columbia County in Pennsylvania
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« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2010, 01:21:45 pm »



Pennsylvania

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« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2010, 01:22:03 pm »

Pennsylvania
Coordinates: 40°48′12″N 76°20′30″W / 40.80333°N 76.34167°W / 40.80333; -76.34167Coordinates: 40°48′12″N 76°20′30″W / 40.80333°N 76.34167°W / 40.80333; -76.34167
Country United States
State Pennsylvania
County Columbia
Settled 1841
Incorporated 1866
Government
 - Mayor Carl Womer
Area
 - Total 0.2 sq mi (0.6 km2)
Population (2009)
 - Total 9
 - Density 87.5/sq mi (33.8/km2)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 - Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 17921
Area code(s) 570
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« Reply #5 on: June 17, 2010, 01:22:31 pm »

Early history

Johnathan Faust opened Bull's Head Tavern in 1841 in what was then Roaring Creek Township. In 1854, Alexander W. Rea, a civil and mining engineer for the Locust Mountain Coal and Iron Company, moved to the site and laid out streets and lots for development. The town was known as Centreville until 1865. There was another Centreville in Schuylkill County, however, and the Post Office would not allow a second one, so Rea renamed his village Centralia.[3]

Centralia was incorporated as a borough in 1866. The anthracite coal industry was the principal employer in the community. Coal mining continued in Centralia until the 1960s, when most of the companies went out of business. Bootleg mining continued until 1982. Strip and open-pit mining is still active in the area, and there is an underground mine employing about 40 employees three miles to the west.

The borough was also a hotbed of Molly Maguires activity during the 1860s and 1870s. The borough's founder, Alexander Rea, was one of the victims of the secret order when he was murdered just outside of the borough on October 17, 1868.[4] Three individuals were convicted of the crime and hanged in the county seat of Bloomsburg, on March 25, 1878. Several other murders and arsons also occurred during this period.

The borough was served by two railroads, the Philadelphia and Reading and the Lehigh Valley, with the Lehigh Valley being the principal carrier. Rail service ended in 1966. The borough operated its own school district with elementary schools and a high school within its precincts. There were also two Catholic parochial schools in the borough. The borough once had seven churches, five hotels, twenty-seven saloons, two theatres, a bank, a post office, and 14 general and grocery stores. During most of the borough's history, when coal mining activity was being conducted, the town had a population in excess of 2,000 residents. Another 500 to 600 residents lived in unincorporated areas immediately adjacent to Centralia.[1]

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« Reply #6 on: June 17, 2010, 01:22:59 pm »

Mine fire

“ This was a world where no human could live, hotter than the planet Mercury, its atmosphere as poisonous as Saturn's. At the heart of the fire, temperatures easily exceeded 1,000 degrees [Fahrenheit]. Lethal clouds of carbon monoxide and other gases swirled through the rock chambers.[3] - David DeKok (1986)
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« Reply #7 on: June 17, 2010, 01:23:13 pm »

It is not known for certain how the fire that made Centralia essentially uninhabitable was ignited. One theory asserts that in May 1962, the Centralia Borough Council hired five members of the volunteer fire company to clean up the town landfill, located in an abandoned strip-mine pit next to the Odd Fellows Cemetery. This had been done prior to Memorial Day in previous years, when the landfill was in a different location. The firefighters, as they had in the past, set the dump on fire and let it burn for a time. Unlike in previous years, however, the fire was not extinguished correctly.

Other evidence supports this theory, as stated in Joan Quigley's 2007 missive, such as the fact that one of two trash haulers (Curly Stasulevich or Sam Devine) dumped hot ash and/or coal discarded from coal burners into the open trash pit. The borough, by law, was responsible for installing a fire-resistant clay barrier between each layer, but fell behind schedule, leaving the barrier partly incomplete. This allowed the hot coals to penetrate the vein of coal underneath the pit and light the subsequent subterranean fire. Quigley cites "interviews with volunteer firemen, the former fire chief, borough officials, and several eyewitnesses, as well as contemporaneous borough council minutes" as her sources for this explanation of the fire.[5] Another theory of note is the Bast Theory. It states that the fire was burning long before the alleged trash dump fire. However, due to overwhelmingly contrary evidence, few hold this position, and it is given little credibility.[5
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« Reply #8 on: June 17, 2010, 01:23:26 pm »

The fire remained burning underground and spread through a hole in the rock pit into the abandoned coal mines beneath Centralia. Attempts to extinguish the fire were unsuccessful, and it continued to burn throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Adverse health effects were reported by several people due to the byproducts of the fire, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and a lack of healthy oxygen levels
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« Reply #9 on: June 17, 2010, 01:23:40 pm »

In 1979, locals became aware of the scale of the problem when a gas-station owner and then mayor, John Coddington, inserted a stick into one of his underground tanks to check the fuel level. When he withdrew it, it seemed hot, so he lowered a thermometer down on a string and was shocked to discover that the temperature of the gasoline in the tank was 172 °F (77.8 °C). Statewide attention to the fire began to increase, culminating in 1981 when 12-year-old resident Todd Domboski fell into a sinkhole four feet wide by 150 feet (46 m) deep that suddenly opened beneath his feet in a backyard. Only the quick work of his cousin Eric Wolfgang in pulling Todd out of the hole saved Todd's life, as the plume of hot steam billowing from the hole was measured as containing a lethal level of carbon monoxide.

In 1984, the U.S. Congress allocated more than $42 million for relocation efforts. Most of the residents accepted buyout offers and moved to the nearby communities of Mount Carmel and Ashland. A few families opted to stay despite warnings from Pennsylvania officials.

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« Reply #10 on: June 17, 2010, 01:23:57 pm »

In 1992, Pennsylvania claimed eminent domain on all properties in the borough, condemning all the buildings within. A subsequent legal effort by residents to have the decision reversed failed. In 2002, the U.S. Postal Service revoked Centralia's ZIP code, 17927.[1][6]

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« Reply #11 on: June 17, 2010, 01:25:08 pm »



A small part of the Centralia mine fire as it appeared after being exposed during an excavation in 1969
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« Reply #12 on: June 17, 2010, 01:25:53 pm »



Where the former route of PA Route 61 terminates due to the mine fire
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« Reply #13 on: June 17, 2010, 01:26:38 pm »



Section of the former route of PA Route 61 closed due to mine fire
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« Reply #14 on: June 17, 2010, 01:27:09 pm »

Today

Very few homes remain standing in Centralia; most of the abandoned buildings have been demolished by humans or nature. At a casual glance, the area now appears to be a field with many paved streets running through it. Some areas are being filled with new-growth forest. The remaining church in the borough, St. Mary's, holds weekly services on Sunday and is unaffected by the fire. [citation needed] The town's four cemeteries—including one on the hilltop that has smoke rising around and out of it—are maintained in good condition.[citation needed]

The only indications of the fire, which underlies some 400 acres (1.6 km²) spreading along four fronts, 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, the area just behind the hilltop cemetery, and other cracks in the ground scattered about the area. Route 61 was repaired several times until its final closing. The current route was a detour around the damaged portion during the repairs and became a permanent route in the mid-1990s; mounds of dirt were placed at both ends of the former route, effectively blocking the road. Pedestrian traffic is still possible due to a small opening about two feet wide at the north side of the road, but this is muddy and not accessible to the disabled. The underground fire is still burning and will continue to do so for a predicted 250 more years.[7]

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