You can’t even fathom how depressing it really is.
In case you didn’t know (which I didn’t until I saw a post by Anthracite a while ago), Centralia is the site of the largest mine fire in the United States. In 1962, the fire started, and it caught a vein of coal on fire which has been burning ever since. In 1986, the government started to evacuate the people from the town so as of now there are approximately 20 people left. It’s become the equivalent of Love Canal around here; in fact, I think it’s still a Superfund site. The people around there think that the government wants to chase them away in order to dig the coal out of the ground and profit from their misfortune, even though there’s abundant evidence that the fire is not going to be able to be stopped. It’s all a big mess, if you ask me.
I went when there was a whole lot of snow on the ground, so I didn’t get the full effect of it, since I couldn’t see the steps leading to nowhere all over the place. I did, however, see the most obvious indication of a fire. It looked like a moonscape, smoke everywhere. How sad. And there was a house about 30 meters from the fire.
It’s gone from a town of 1,100 people to a town of 20. What a tragedy.
There are lots of websites around with better pictures than I have. Perhaps the best is this one, although a Google search will net you a considerable variation. If I can, I’ll post the pictures I took while I was there.
Truth be told, it was one of the most incredible things I ever saw, and at the same time it was one of the saddest. One of the condemned buildings burned down recently, the Speed Spot, the last business that existed there. It had closed long before and was condemned for destruction, but it was still one of the last buildings there. There are others just waiting to be torn down, vandalized and wrecked beyond recognition with numbers indicating their condemnation spray painted on the front of them. Yet people still stay, since they’ve never lived anywhere else and they want to stay, their houses propped up with brick supports since their neighbors are gone and their houses torn down.
I’m gonna go back this summer to get some good pictures, and with luck I’ll get to talk to the locals and get an idea of what it was really like back when the town was a bustling, booming coal town, because right now there’s almost nothing left.
I said it before, and I’ll say it again: what a tragedy.