The story of Centralia, the town which has had a coal fire burning beneath it for fifty years is the stuff of legend. I won’t retell the story in this post but search for it in the search box and you’ll find numerous posts about it. In short, the town decided to burn its garbage in 1962 and it lit a coal vein on fire which still burns to this day. Thousands of residents moved away, the local highway was ruined and a bypass built, and now after decades of fighting, the remaining residents (all seven of them) have made a deal. They will get a settlement of 218K and get to remain on their land but upon their death the state takes it by right of eminent domain. There had long been pressure on them to sell but they resisted because of the value of the coal that could be mined once they sold. Now those issues are resolved.
When the fire will stop burning, no one knows.
If you aren’t watching Life After People on the History Channel, you should. The series is based on the best selling book by Alan Weisman The World Without Us, which examines what would happen if humans just vanished from the earth. It doesn’t ask how we might vanish, that ground has been covered by innumerable books, movies and tv shows. It asks what would become of our roads, bridges and buildings, our homes, museums, and the creative works we’ve created such as books and and art? It is a fascinating book and an equally fascinating series.
In it’s premiere episode, the series examined two places that have been abandoned for years: the area around Chernobyl and a mining island called Hasima Island off the coast of Japan. Known as a Ghost Island it was a source of coal for local residents before a mining operation was established. At it’s peak there were almost 1000 people per hectare living on the island, making it the most densely populated place on Earth.
I won’t re-invent the wheel by writing more here. Follow the link above or watch this video. Hashima Island is an urban explorers wet dream, and is place I would love to visit to document for myself…
Just imagine an entire town for only three short years. This community of about 70 homes and stores, complete with hotel was centered around the Waplers Glass Works which manufactured Christmas decorations and “shades”(glass covers for collectables). The town also had a wharf into the river and history speaks of the vessels “Frances” and “Argo” sinking on this spot. As is typical of many types of abandoned Pine Barrens towns, there’s not much left but some foundations and walls.