Sunday, September 9, 2012


Always keeping my mind open for potential entry topics, I came across today's blog-able subject while reading A Walk in the Woods- a book about a man hiking the Appalachian Trail. While a personal travel account about true nature is interesting, a random side story about a fifty-year-long underground fire is even better (and certainly makes the cut for cereal box news). Therefore, today's entry is a brief history lesson in:

The Lost Town of Centralia, Pennsylvania

BUT WAIT- despite the words "history" and "lesson" being featured side by side, I promise this post isn't actually boring. To prove this point and to stay true to my use of the word 'brief,' we shall use bullet points and follow your standard story/Sparknote outline: 
  • Background: Centralia was a small town developed around the mining industry in the 1860's
  • Plot: In 1962, the residual coal mines beneath the town caught fire when a controlled landfill burn went astray, seeping into the underground mining network.
  • Event #1 : Smoke began rising from the ground in various parts of the community; paved roads were often warm to the touch. 
  • Event #2 : The severity of the situation wasn't realized until 1979 when a local gas station owner pulled a temperature reading of 172 degrees for his underground gas tanks.
    •  13 feet below those tanks the temperature was an astounding 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Event #3 : Around this time, adverse health effects began plaguing the community- namely those from high levels of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.  
  • Climax: Young boy falls into suddenly appearing 150-foot-deep sinkhole while playing in grandma's backyard and SURVIVES. 
    • Details: Boy clings to tree roots and is saved by cousin. Somehow he survives lethal levels of carbon monoxide as well... like a champ.
  • Resolution: Federal government evacuates town, and all buildings are demolished. The resulting landscape consists only of paved roads and driveways, and a single church.  

Current update: According to Bill Bryson (author of my book) as well as ever-so-handy Wikipedia, the phenomenal underground fire of Centralia continues to burn today and is expected to do so for up to the next 1000 years. The town also maintains a thriving population of 10.


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