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 Post subject: Centralia's coal-fueled fire could reach Mount Carmel
PostPosted: Sat Oct 17, 2009 9:57 pm 
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Centralia's coal-fueled fire could reach Mount Carmel, newly released maps indicate

By DAVID N. DUNKLE,
The Patriot-News (Harrisburg)
October 17, 2009

Newly released Pennsylvania maps indicate that the coal-fueled fire under Centralia could spread to the nearby town of Mount Carmel, according to an author who recently updated his book on the fire.

The fire below Centralia has burned for nearly five decades, with no end in sight.

"Nobody really knows how long it will burn," said author David DeKok, who has published a revised and expanded version of "Unseen Danger," his 1986 book about the Centralia fire.

DeKok’s new book is titled "Fire Underground: The Ongoing Tragedy of the Centralia Mine Fire," published by Globe Pequot Press.

"Fire Underground," which features new chapters and photos, updates the history of the Centralia fire. The underground inferno started May 27, 1962, when the borough set fire to a dump site as part of an effort to spruce up the town for Memorial Day.

That fire has never gone out, spreading into a labyrinth of anthracite coal mines below the town. Over the years, the heat, steam and poisonous fumes it generates have made Centralia synonymous with hell on earth.

Nearly all of its 1,000 residents have taken a government buyout and moved elsewhere. Many battled stubbornly for their town every step of the way, DeKok said. But they were ultimately undone by bureaucratic disinterest from the state and federal governments, which deemed the cost of putting out the fire too high, he said.

"I think the most tragic aspect is how the people of Centralia and the town they loved were weighed in the balance and found wanting," DeKok said. "Helping them was always weighed against the cost, and for more than 20 years, cost won out in the face of the advancing fire."

DeKok, of Harrisburg, has been following the fire and its effect for more than 30 years, starting with hundreds of articles he wrote between 1975 and 1987 as a reporter for the Times-Item newspaper in Shamokin. He still visits the town to take photos, building a visual record of its decline.

Many of the new details in "Fire Underground" were found because of an open-records law recently enacted in Pennsylvania.

He writes, for example, about old maps that were discovered — but not made public — by the state Department of Environmental Resources. Those show additional tunnel systems that might enable the fire to reach the nearby town of Mount Carmel — a westward migration that might take decades.

DeKok’s photos of Centralia, 60 miles northeast of Harrisburg, show a ghost town slowly being reclaimed by nature. Abandoned houses are torn down because they cannot be sold and represent a potential public hazard. Roads are disintegrating, and some have been closed. Plumes of steam rise from vents in the ground, and there are hot spots where winter snow melts almost immediately.

DeKok said fewer than a dozen structures still stand, including the municipal building, which is used to park fire trucks — and apparently is still the site of Borough Council meetings.

"I’m not sure they meet the definition of a borough any more," he said. "Stubbornness is a big part of it. Those remaining are the die-hards of the die-hards."

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Last edited by miket145 on Sat Oct 17, 2009 10:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 17, 2009 10:00 pm 
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Joined: Fri Jul 15, 2005 2:34 pm
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Location: Within 60 Miles of the Northern Anthracite Field
good, more fuel for the media. the centralia story has been burning out over the last few years, not enough to see there anymore i guess..... so good lets fuel the media more! newly released maps......... yea old mine maps that have only been around since the late 1800s, but theyre only figuring this out now......... wow. :roll:

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