Mine Fire

On this Halloween Eve (yes, I know…technically, Halloween is All Hallow’s Eve,  bear with me here) gather round with your favorite Mason jar of spiked lemonade, sweet tea, what-have-you and sit a spell while I tell you a story.

What you see below is part of Route 61 here in Pennsylvania. For those of you who are familiar with a little known store here in PA, Cabela’s, that is the same road said store is on.

I bet your sitting there wondering…just what in the hell caused that crack in the road.

Furthermore…

How is it possible that such a major Route was destined to be closed.

I’ll tell ya. But first, another pic.

Okay. One more.

See how that picture is kind of hazy? That’s smoke. Putrid smoke wafting out of a very eerily warm crack in the ground.

Waaaaaaaaaaaay back when, in the 1960’s, a quaint little town, Centralia, decided to use an old, abandoned strip mine for their trash. An old, abandoned strip mine that just happened to be attached to a coal vein, anthracite coal to be exact. They are not “quite sure”, but somehow, the trash caught fire, which, in turn ignited the coal vein and over the last 50ish years, the Government has tried to put the fire out.

Just as they thought the fire was out and they were fooled by the cooling land, months later more cracks with more billows of smoke appeared.

They tried. They failed. To this day the fire still burns.

People were forced to leave their homes. There are still items on the shelves in the picture below.

There are many theories behind how the fire ignited…maybe a trash hauler dumped hot ashes along with the trash and it slowly burned. Maybe the coal vein was already ignited down the line. Or maybe, according to some, the coal up in that area was so valuable that…well…that’s just another conspiracy theory.

We began our day traveling up Route 61 with a few friends. Centralia is no longer on a map. Or so they told me. Who am I to question people who have lived here and have seen Centralia in person?

Suddenly…the road turned. The signs changed. Route 61 was closed. Surprisingly, there were no “STAY BACK” signs or electrified fences to keep us out. So we went in.

And we walked. We hopped over some busted up macadam and entered Centralia. It was, well, is the perfect setting for a horror movie. The sulfur in the air, the heat emanating up from the ground…you would expect a zombie to come lumbering out of the woods at any moment. We found old glass bottles, old gas lines, fireplaces that sat crumbling in the middle of fields. We walked the streets that the woods were starting to claim back for themselves.

Have you noticed? There is something missing besides buildings from these pictures. It took me a few minutes to notice, too. Don’t feel bad. I was there and didn’t notice at first. There are no animals. No deer. No fox. Sure, there are birds, but no rabbits, no squirrels.

Can you imagine, before the government intervened and forced people to leave because it was so dangerous, you and your friends out for a walk in your neighborhood and the ground opening up, threatening to swallow you whole? That happened. Back in 1981. A 12 year old boy would have died if his cousin hadn’t been there to save him.

That's a vent pipe

I must tell you…have you seen the movie Silent Hill (yes it’s based on the video game of same name)? If not, go see it or you will not understand what I am talking about. Not only is there a church in the town complete with the stereotypical stone steps,

right before our day was done the town’s air raid siren went off. I am not kidding you when I tell you it was the exact.same.fucking.siren in the movie.

CHILLS went down my spine. It is quite a sight to see 4 adults freeze in their tracks because of a silly horror movie. But I swear…we got out of there as fast as we could. Heat was getting to us. Yeah. Heat. (turns out there was a major fire on the mountain)

It’s been so many years since the fire started that, I suppose, no one will truly know how it happened. I dare say, it is one helluva place to visit. IF you can find it.

But please…be respectful. Some people still do live there.

Comments ( 2 )

  1. ReplyWalt

    Cool photos. I have never been to Centralia but one of these days I'd like to make the trip and check it out. I was under the impression that it was farther away, turns out it is about an hour and a half. I was compelled to check Google Maps when you mentioned Rt. 61 and Cabelas (30 minute drive).

  2. ReplyLinoge

    Wow, thanks for taking the time to photograph all of that... Personally, I love picture series like these - settlements like Centralia are dissolving into nothingness, and without folks like you going out there and looking for them, in a few years, no one would know the slightest thing about them. That, and I love urban decay photography... Rural decay photography is kind of the same thing ;).

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