50 years ago yesterday, the coal mine under Centralia, Pennsylvania caught fire. It’s still burning today, and probably will be in another 50 years.
CENTRALIA, Pa. (AP) — Fifty years ago on Sunday, a fire at the town dump ignited an exposed coal seam, setting off a chain of events that eventually led to the demolition of nearly every building in Centralia — a whole community of 1,400 simply gone.
All these decades later, the Centralia fire still burns. It also maintains its grip on the popular imagination, drawing visitors from around the world who come to gawk at twisted, buckled Route 61, at the sulfurous steam rising intermittently from ground that’s warm to the touch, at the empty, lonely streets where nature has reclaimed what coal-industry money once built.
Here’s a fantastic documentary about the ghost town. I strongly recommend this one.
By way of a positive post script, the ridge above the town is now — ironically enough — lined with wind turbines.