Pennsylvania had passed a precautionary law in to regulate landfill use in strip mines, as landfills were known to cause destructive mine fires. The law required a permit and regular inspection for a municipality to use such a pit. George Segaritus, a regional landfill inspector who worked for the Department of Mines and Mineral Industries DMMI , became concerned about the pit when he noticed holes in the walls and floor, as such mines often cut through older mines underneath.
Segaritus informed Joseph Tighe, a Centralia councilman, that the pit would require filling with an incombustible material. This was a world where no human could live, hotter than the planet Mercury, its atmosphere as poisonous as Saturn's. At the heart of the fire, temperatures easily exceeded 1, degrees Fahrenheit [ degrees Celsius ]. Lethal clouds of carbon monoxide and other gases swirled through the rock chambers. The town council arranged for cleanup of the strip mine dump, but council minutes do not describe the proposed procedure. Dekok surmises that the process—setting it on fire—was not specified because state law prohibited dump fires.
Nonetheless, the Centralia council set a date and hired five members of the volunteer firefighter company to clean up the landfill. A fire was ignited to clean the dump on May 27, , and water was used to douse the visible flames that night. However, flames were seen once more on May Using hoses hooked up from Locust Avenue, another attempt was made to douse the fire that night.
Another flare-up in the following week June 4 caused the Centralia Fire Company to once again douse it with hoses. A bulldozer stirred up the garbage so that firemen could douse concealed layers of the burning waste. A few days later, a hole as wide as 15 feet 4. Garbage had concealed the hole and prevented it from being filled with incombustible material. It is possible that this hole led to the mine fire, as it provided a pathway to the labyrinth of old mines under the borough. Evidence indicates that, despite these efforts to douse the fire, the landfill continued to burn; on July 2, Monsignor William J.
Burke complained about foul odors from the smoldering trash and coal reaching St. Ignatius Church. Even then, the Centralia council still allowed the dumping of garbage into the pit. A member of the council contacted Clarence "Mooch" Kashner, the president of the Independent Miners, Breakermen, and Truckers union , to inspect the situation in Centralia.
A call was placed to Art Joyce, a mine inspector from Mount Carmel , who brought gas detection equipment for use on the swirling wisps of smoke now emanating from fissures in the north wall of the landfill pit. Tests concluded that the gases seeping from the large hole in the pit wall and from cracks in the north wall contained carbon monoxide concentrations typical of coal-mine fires. It is speculated that the town council decided that hiding the true origin of the fire would serve better than alerting the LVCC of the truth, which would most likely end in receiving no help from them.
In the letter, the borough described the starting of a fire "of unknown origin during a period of unusually hot weather". Another offer was made at the meeting, proposed by Centralia strip mine operator Alonzo Sanchez, who told members of council that he would dig out the mine fire free of charge as long as he could claim any coal he recovered without paying royalties to the Lehigh Valley Coal Company.
Part of Sanchez's plan was to do exploratory drilling to estimate the scope of the mine fire, which was most likely why Sanchez's offer was rejected at the meeting. The drilling would have delayed the project, not to mention the legal issues with mining rights. At the time, state mine inspectors were in the Centralia-area mines almost daily to check for lethal levels of carbon monoxide. Lethal levels were found on August 9, and all Centralia-area mines were closed the next day.
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Pressed at an August 12 meeting of the United Mine Works of America in Centralia, Secretary of Mines Lewis Evans sent a letter to the group on August 15 that claimed he had authorized a project to deal with the mine fire, and that bids for the project would be opened on August Two days later, the contract was awarded to Bridy, Inc. Work on the project began August The size and location of the fire were, instead, estimated based on the amount of steam issuing from the landfill rock. However, the project was ultimately ineffective due to multiple factors.
Intentional breaching of the subterranean mine chambers inadvertently allowed large amounts of oxygen to rush in, subsequently fueling the fire. Steve Kisela, a bulldozer operator in Bridy's project, said that the project was ineffective because the fuel burst helped the fire to move ahead of the excavation point by the time the section was drilled and blasted. Jul Drift op de Boot Is Burning. Aug 3. Pride Is Burning. Is Burning - Come as you are! Artwork by Doppeldenk. Aug 4.
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Sep 12, Jul 18, Rhythm is a dancer. Jun 7, The underground fire reached downtown by , when a gas station owner who was also the mayor measured his gasoline storage tank at degrees! In , a year-old boy fell into a sinkhole, releasing steam and carbon dioxide he was pulled out by his cousin and survived. The citizens of Centralia abandoned the the unsafe town, accepting government buyouts on their property offered in The nearby town of Byrnesville was also abandoned because of the underground fire. Centralia was officially condemned in , but a very few residents refused to leave. The census listed the population of Centralia at ten people.
The fire has now been burning for over 50 years. Photograph from eo miners. Coal mining in the Mpumalanga province formerly East Transvaal of South Africa centers around the city of eMalahleni, which means "place of coal.
The extensive Transvaal and Delagoa Bay Collieries were abandoned in without reclamation, and parts of the mines have been on fire ever since. Witbank coalfield mines typically had a low coal recovery ratio, and the pillars of coal left behind spontaneously combusted in contact with oxygen. The abandoned underground mine passages collapse unexpectedly , and have injured and killed people occasionally over the years, either from the collapse or the burning coal underneath. These are not the only long-burning coal seam fires. They've happened throughout history, and sometimes burn for centuries.
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There are other underground coal fires burning today as well, all over the world. Brennender Berg, Germany. Miss Cellania. Subscribe to our Newsletter!