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Panoramic Virtual Tours:

Mine Fire Hot Spot
Downtown Centralia Mainstreet Centralia Damaged Hillside

Knoebels Amusement Park (only 15 miles from Centralia!) 
Ghost Towns
Area 51 - Groom Lake
Abandoned PA Turnpike
Defunct Amusement Parks
Abandoned Places


Photo Updates:

Centralia in HDR

July 2006 360? Virtual Tour of Downtown Centralia PA

Centralia's Neighbor:
Byrnesville, Pa

Zeisloft's Mobil
Gas Station

July 5th 2008
Centralia PA

Centralia PA 2008
January Photos and 
commentary by
Donald Davis

2006 Photos

2005 Photos
of Centralia


IMG_0215b.jpg (116899 bytes)
2004 Photos
of Centralia

2003 photos

of Centralia

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2002 photos

of Centralia

360 Degree Virtual Tours of Centralia PA

Fire In The Hole
by Kristie Betts
A fictional story based on Centralia

The Little
Town That Was

by Donald Hollinger


RESIDENTS TO SAVE THE BOROUGH OF CENTRALIA - FACT SHEET #6 - MARCH 1984 - This "Fact Sheet" was transcribed from a photocopied, original March 1984 newsletter from a Centralia organization called "Residents To Save The Borough Of Centralia".  Read the News Letter here

130th Anniversary
of the 1877 Shamokin Uprising and the Great Railroad Strike .. Read More


Centralia Today
A Photo Documentary
of Centralia today.


Mine Emergency Response Program
Details from the
Mine Rescue Manual


Underground flames erase a community
Centralia's legacy forever tied to mine fire

Staff Writer


In 1962, Centralia was a relatively quiet residential community with a population of more than 1,000.

But today, less than 30 people call it home, according to Mayor Lamar Mervine.

A mine fire that began burning in coal pockets outside the community 38 years ago has devastated the borough, transforming it into a near ghost town and curiosity stop for tourists. Changes brought by the collapse of the anthracite industry, which gave the town its start, are miniscule compared to what the underground inferno has wrought.

Looking back, borough officials said what happened to Centralia was a tragedy. But the mine fire isn't the only reason why, according to borough council President Helen J. Womer, 71.

"The mine fire didn't destroy it. The government destroyed it," she said.

She was referring to previous attempts to douse the blaze, dire warnings of health hazards posed by fumes and subsidences and a government-sponsored buyout of properties in the late 1980s and early '90s - it was determined it would be cheaper to do that than dig out the mine fire - that has left only a handful of the hardiest residents, some of whom contend the government has exaggerated dangers posed by the blaze, or that the fire is now burning away from the town.

Mine workings lured miners
The story of Centralia begins in the 1840s, when the anthracite boom was in its infancy. With the opening of the Locust Run and Coal Ridge collieries that year, miners and their families made their homes at the hilly settlement in what was then Conyngham Township.

Centralia was incorporated as a borough in 1866, Irish settlers having made up most of its roughly 3,000 residents at the time.

In 1935, a pit - located on the south side of the borough near what was later the Odd Fellows Cemetery - was strip-mined for coal from the Buck Mountain vein.

By 1962, the borough was using it as a garbage dump and in May of that year the trash caught fire and subsequently ignited a coal seam under the pit.

Control efforts futile
Ensuing years brought several efforts to extinguish it, with more than $8.3 million in federal and state funds used, all to no avail, according to a 1981 article in Today magazine.

"They had it almost out in 1969 and orders were given to backfill the trench with the fire still in it," Womer said.

Large holes were dug in the southeast section of the borough, near the cemetery, she said.

In 1971, when federal and state funds for the project were running out, excavation had unearthed burning coal - the fire's burning heart had been exposed, according to the Today article.

"Orders were given to backfill it because they ran out of money," Womer claimed.

When the U.S. Bureau of Mines asked Columbia County for $25,000 to support the effort to dig it out, the commissioners pleaded poverty and the burning area was backfilled, leaving the coal to burn, she said

"They almost had it out," Womer said. "Another month of work would have taken care of it."

Between 1965 and 1972, in attempts to halt the fire's spread, workers had drilled 1,635 boreholes, pumped 122,556 tons of fly ash and 117,220 cubic yards of sand into the ground, removed about 60,000 cubic yards of earth and installed 19,000 cubic yards of clay seals, all at a cost of $2,768,207.69 in federal funds, according to the Today article.

Citizens' pleas fruitless
In the 1980s, Centralia's citizens began to rally together in an effort to encourage the government to resume efforts to stop the blaze; however, signatures collected on petitions, and speeches, fell on deaf ears, Womer said.

As the years passed, the borough's population decreased. Womer credited much of that to psychological pressure from the government, which warned of dangers posed by fumes and subsidence from the fire's relentless march.

"The people had had enough. The people wanted to hang on and they wanted to hang on and they just got older and got older and they got sick of it all and tired of the pressures and letters from the government and they just moved out," she said.

In late 1992, the state declared eminent domain in an effort to force holdout Centralia residents to relocate. As the result, the state took ownership of all the properties in the borough - the surface rights, including the homes.

Town owns mineral rights

But the borough held onto the mineral rights, Mervine, 84, said.

The government has continued pressure on residents to leave.

"They claim we're in great danger here. And yet, there's an intersection in town here and there are thousands of cars a day that go through that intersection," the mayor said.

"Now they're going to repair that whole road from Centralia down through the borough of Mount Carmel. It's a major project," the mayor said, pointing to it as evidence the fire's threat may be less that what the government makes it out to be.

It's interesting to note that the fire never caused the death or serious injury of anyone, the mayor said.

Womer and Mervine said they believe one of the reasons the government is putting pressure on residents to leave is that an estimated 42 million tons of coal remain below the town, and it's worth, according to Womer, "millions and millions."

Pressure suspected
But it's not the government that necessarily wants the coal, she said, adding she suspects private interests may be encouraging the government's push.

"If the borough didn't own the coal or if there was no coal in Centralia, I doubt if there would be 15 families moved out of here," she said.

Womer said she can't predict the borough's future. "I don't even like to think about it."

But the mayor noted, "The people who are left are not going to move out voluntarily."

It is unlikely the government's efforts to relocate everyone will stop, although no effort has been made to physically enforce the eminent domain ruling.

"They haven't thought about it," the mayor said. "But you never know when that might happen."



  Mine Fire History Mine Fire History Historical Photos
  Pictures From Today Mine Fire Chronology Visiting Centralia
  Centralia Then & Now 360? Virtual Tours Scientific Study
  Satellite, Aerial Photos Downtown Panoramic Centralia Books


Other Interesting Things




So you want to Visit Centralia PA?  What you should know before you go to Centralia PA.


The Real Disaster Is Above Ground: A Mine Fire and Social Conflict



What's near Centralia?

Plan your visit around one of Pennsylvania's best kept secrets located only 15 miles up the road from Centralia...

Amusement Park

Click Below for
 more details...

Amusement Park


Silent Hill & Centralia
Centralia PA inspires screenwriter Roger Avary during the making of the movie Silent Hill.
Read More Here...


Remembering ...
Byrnesville PA
By Mike Reilley

  Books about Centralia
  Maps of Centralia
  Around Town Today
  Local Attractions
  Personal Notes
  Additional Reading
  Haunted Centralia?
  Gerry McWilliams and
  the album "Centralia"
  Silent Hill Inspiration
  Other Mine Fires
  Search Centralia
  Centralia Sites/Books
Panoramic Virtual Tours:
Mine Fire Hot Spot
Downtown Centralia Mainstreet Centralia Damaged Hillside
  Centralia Infrared

Centralia PA in B&W Infrared
Infrared Photography
by Donald Davis

Video Tour
in Infrared of
Centralia PA
by Donald Davis


The Little Town That Was
by Donald Hollinger
Made in U.S.A. - 1987 movie that was filmed on location in Centralia PA See the opening Scene that started in Centralia during the peek of the mine fire disaster



Is Centralia Haunted?
Explore the possibility

The Real Disaster Is Above Ground: A Mine Fire and Social Conflict

Is there Hope
for Centralia?


Through the use of Nitrogen-Enhanced foam the Pinnacle mine fire was extinguished by Cummins Industries, Inc.  Cummins proposes to tackle the Centralia Mine fire and bring an end to the 
40 plus year fire.

Read this White Paper which evaluates the effectiveness of remotely applied nitrogen-enhanced foam to aid in efforts to isolate and suppress a mine fire.