The “Abandonment” of Centralia

This town is not completely abandoned…not yet anyway.  And the few holding out may have a deep case of strong will, the will for what may be right.

For those unfamiliar with a town called Centralia in Pennsylvania it has a curious and heartbreaking history.  This once flourishing small town of American was pretty much wiped off the map by an underground mine fire.  This fire began in 1962 when someone set a dump on fire…which was not for some reason put out, and it subsequently spread into the network of coal mine tunnels that ran beneath the town.  Dangerous sinkholes and poisonous gases threatened the residents ability to live in the town. A relocation program was launched by the government, costing over $42 million and seemed to be complete by 1993.  But a few people held out, disregarding the eminent domain order.  And a few hold-outs are still there.  There may be more to this sad loss of a town than meets the eye. 

“Centralians have long believed the government’s demolition of their beloved town in the 1980s was part of a plot to swipe the mineral rights to anthracite coal worth hundreds of millions of dollars,” says this quote from Associated Press Writer Michael Rubinkam in a recent article.  The residents believe that the fire which started all those years ago was perhaps intentionally let go, with the results of today’s abandonment the justified plan for the state to take over the land rights as well as the mineral rights below the land for the potential money involved.  As of right now it is not clear who has the mineral rights.

Centralia - Then and Now

But a last-ditch effort has been launched by the few remaining residents, taking these conspiracy claims to court.  They claim that there are no gases leaking from the fire and they claim to have evidence which proves that it is “almost out” and is no longer a danger to themselves nor their homes.  Court documents state from the Department of Environment Protection  study of 2008 that toxic gases are no longer a problem for residents.  They also found the temperatures have gone down measurably.

These home owners do not want to leave their life-long homes and are making this last plea to be left alone.  “There is no mine fire or other related condition that justifies the taking of their property,” a petition said.   Still,  state officials insist that the fire remains a threat to health.

If this is a massive fraud to perpetuate the taking of homes and land that once was flourishing, all for the mining of a mineral that we should just well enough leave alone, it is a travesty of the human condition and thoughtlessness of greed which surrounds our government systems.  There is no question: something happened here.  A tragic fire started and was perhaps left go…more than 1000 people were relocated and 500 homes were destroyed.  Do these last survivors have a right to the dignified claims to their homes?

Once Centralia ceases to exist, the state could sell the mineral rights to a coal company and thus produce even more senseless strip mining in this country, the dangers of which are staggering.  With all this “clean coal” propaganda floating about, a bunch of bullshit if you ask me, Centralia could become “one of the most productive strip mine operations in the country.”  I’m praying  for the last residents. I hope they win.

Source: Centralia Residents Claim ‘Fraud’ -Times Leader- Michael Rubinkam, AP – 3/10/2010


5 Responses to “The “Abandonment” of Centralia”

  1. Lisa Chapman Says:

    I had no idea about this situation – it sure seems as if something sneaky is going on. If the state is being deceptive, I hope all will be revealed and the little guy would prevail. Interesting piece Jenn.



  2. Sarcastic Bastard Says:

    I didn’t know about this either. Thanks for posting about it. I, also, stand with the residents. That the government would pull this shit is totally probable. Wouldn’t surpise me a damn bit.

    Love you.



  3. Centralia is fascinating. Being a PA girl I’ve always known about it and I’ve been hearing lately all the court issues that are arising. It’s heartbreaking. Have you ever been? I’ve oddly always wanted to……


  4. You know Bren, I have thought about a visit to Centralia also…


  5. Mary McWilliams Says:

    Song by Gerry McWilliams after a visit to Centralia, Pa.


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