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Centralia, PA The Mouth Of Hell

image A coal fire below Centralia, PA has been burning for more then 45 years.

Practically from the time we are born, we develop a picture in our minds of the american dream.In general, to achieve that dream, we find the ideal job, get married, buy a home, and start a family. We live our lives from day to day with the hope of building a bright future.

now imagine that everything that you have worked so hard to accomplish went literally up in smoke. as tragic as this may sound, in 1962 the town of Centralia, located in Columbia County Pennsylvania, had that nightmare become a reality, but on a much larger scale. An abandoned strip mine was accidently set on fire, igniting a nearby vein of anthracite coal. From water and fly ash, to back filling and drilling, every idea tempted to put out the fire would have the same results. It would flair up again in a different locatation making it impossible to control.

Our government showed little concern in extinguishing the flames until 1981, when a 12 year old boy had a sink hole swallow him right out from under his feet, while playing in his own back yard. Fortunately for him, he was not alone at the time and was rescued by a visiting cousin.
In 1983, a research study done by engineers, showed that the only way to put out the fire for good is to escavate and dig up the entire vein. At a cost of 600 million dollars, the federal government chose to relocate the villagers at a much lower cost. Many people felt that this was merely a ploy to acquire mineral rights for the coal. They decided to take their chances in court and fight the decision, but to no avail. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania claimed eminant domain, condemning house after house, stating that it was due to toxic gases, sink holes and the eminent danger that exists. Not only did the residents have the government to deal with, but the post office revoked their zipcode as well.

47 years and 40 million dollars later, there are only 9 buildings left with 8 people remaining, in a town that was once the home of over 2000 people. It is hard to say whether or not the many attempts to put out the fire would have been more successful, had the government gotten involved sooner, but if you ask any of the former residents. they would surely have appreciated it if somebody would have at least tried.

Anthracite is one of the most pure types of coal in existance. Because of this, it burns very hot making it the perfect source for the steel industry. The study also revealed that because of that reason, the fire could spread to 3700 acres and could stay ignited for 250 years or more.
Appropriately nicknamed the mouth of hell, Centralia virtually is no more. Route 61 is now detoured through the neighboring town of Ashland. What is to become of the towns and villages that surround Centralia? Will they too suffer the same fate? Will Route 61 once again be rerouted through another town because Ashland is in the path of distruction? Is it not worth millions to dig up a vein of coal that has a value of billions to save these communities? Maybe the fears of the residents were right, maybe it is about obtaining mineral rights after all. Only time will tell.

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