Some 2,700 people once lived in Centralia. In 1980, the population was 1,000; in 1990, 63. Just seven remained at the last count. The reason? The vast underground coal mine fire that has raged beneath the surface here since 1962.
Unable to extinguish the blaze, the authorities here have seen Centralia become a ghost town. For those passing through, it’s an eerie experience.
The fire started after an ill-fated attempt to incinerate a local landfill site, the flames soon spreading and causing an underground inferno that has burned out of control ever since. These days, it is believed to cover an area of 400 acres and, with smoke and steam billowing from the cracks that continue to open up on the surface, it is considered unsafe to spend time in these parts.
Those visiting are advised to avoid the ruptured roads and pavements and to be aware that deadly sinkholes, capable of swallowing everything up, are always a possibility. One best avoided, in our opinion.