Is Centralia PA still burning?

I remember reading some years ago about a slow-burning fire in a coal mine in Centralia PA.

Was this real? If so, whatever became of it? The article said that it had been burning for years, and they would probably just let it burn itself out, since putting it out would have been cost-prohibitive.

Yes, it’s still burning. Not too many people live there anymore. Not because of the fire , but because the coal mining industry has dried up somewhat in the past few decades.

But think of the money they could save on central heating if they stayed!

Seriously, I’m surprised no one has tapped the heat that the fire in Centralia is making for a generator. It seems like a great way to generate electricity.

Within the last two or three years an American magazine, it may have been Esquire, published a detailed article on this town. There are still a few residents in the condemned housing. The fire was still going underground. I remember descriptions of places where the ground was cracked, smoking and hot. Depending entirely on the unique geological structure, the unbroken expanse of the coal beds, This fire isn’t going out any time soon.

Does anybody know of a website to search for magazine articles? When you think of how many magazines there are and the staggering amount of fluff and bullshit that is published it would almost seem impossible (cost prohibitive) to maintain. Does the Library of Congress file magazine articles?

Bill Bryson visited Centralia in A WALK IN THE WOODS.

There are places for magazine articles, but few are free (lexis-nexis, for instance). There are legal questions as to whether someone can publish the articles without the consent of the writer, who holds copyright. The most recent decision sided with the writer – you can’t make it available (except in an “arcive” like lexis-nexis) without payment to the author.

These coal fires are actually not that incredibly rare, we have several of them in Colorado; there are places where they come right to the surface along highways, etc. I think that some of these fires have been burning more than fifty years, destroying huge amounts of coal. I think that somebody from the University of Michigan was trying to develop a foam that might extinguish some of these fires.


You know, doing what is right is easy. The problem is knowing what is right.

–Lyndon B. Johnson

I was there about seven years ago, along a highway that went through several detours because the main road went over areas that had caved in. I recall one section where the rocks were frosted with sulphur, the trees were blackened, and steam came from glowing cracks in the hillside.

I got a tour of a mine about eleven miles from the fire’s edge, where they were mining as fast as they could before the fire arrived. The mine engineer insisted that the fire couldn’t be stopped because it was taking its oxygen from the water in the rocks.

My best guess is that it’s still burning.


“It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive”
Bruce Springsteen

I live about 50 miles away from Centralia. We always would drive through Centralia to get to a nearby Amusement park. Most of the houses are abandoned/destroyed. You can see steam/smoke rising from the ground; and the trees are all burnt, or at least dead.

Part of the fire must have passed under the road, as a stretch of asphalt was repaved each year due to sinking, and you could see the road crossed the pattern of the fire in the earth (dead grass/trees, smoke).

Needless to say, the road was finally closed last year, so I haven’t been through Centralia since then…

Check http://www.roadsideamerica.com/attract/PACENmine.html