*UPDATE* The time capsule ended up being opened on October 4, 2014 which was much earlier than expected.
Centralia, PA is a modern day ghost town with an ongoing underground inferno. Silent Hill was inspired by Centralia's plight. It was also a model for various movies that wanted to give a hell-like appearance in a ghost town.
There used to be a WARNING - DANGER sign posted here from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania stating that walking or driving in this area could result in serious injury or death; that dangerous gases are present and the ground is prone to sudden collapse.
Centralia was once a prosperous coal mining town with 1,100 population. It included 4 movie theatres, 7 bars, a school and a gas station.
In the spring of 1962, a fire which started at the town dump during spring cleanup ignited the coal present at the ground level as this area is very rich in coal. As firefighters worked to try and extinguish that fire, it had already spread to the underground abandoned coal tunnels that are 100 meters in depth. After a couple of decades, attempts to put out the fire failed. State and federal authorities said they didn't have enough funding to do the job right. They tried digging up the coal around the burn site but it was burning faster than they could dig and there are too many tunnels too flood.
Approximately 450 acres of underground coal has been on fire since. This type of coal is called anthracite which is difficult to ignite, but very difficult to extinguish. There are 3000 acres of coal field here underground, so with enough oxygen feeding this fire from other mining tunnels, the fire is expected to last at least another 100-200 years, maybe longer. The temperature of the active burn area below ground is 1100-1200 degrees Farhenheit. Tests by scientists and geologists were done here that showed the ground temperature to be around 440 degrees Celsius a foot into the ground.
With the threats of hydrogen explosions, carbon monoxide and cave-ins, most residents were relocated in the 80s. The houses were then torn down leaving approximately 11 people behind who refused to evacuate despite the danger and risks involved such as dangerous gasses, explosions and sink holes. The ground beneath could collapse and has done so already. Looking down the now-empty streets, you can see that nature has reclaimed her land, albeit, a dangerous one. Buildings, cars and trees can fall into this pit at any time.
The old Hwy 61 that used to bring traffic to Centralia has been destroyed by the underground fire. It is constantly subsiding with smoke usually billowing out from the pits and separations that will continue to get wider and deeper day-by-day. This is called subsidence. This is due to the coal seams the run below ground at steep angles which cause the road above ground to collapse as the coal burns.
According to engineers, the only way to stop this fire is to dig the entire 3000 acres of coal field under this town and surrounding area. This would cost $600 million which is more than the US governments were willing to pay.
Ironically, a small town just south of Centralia, Byrnesville (of all names) was also evacuated and now empty. Mostly coal miners resided here of an Irish-Catholic desent. Both Centralia and Byrnesville were a tight-knit community, and many did not want to leave.
There is a time capsule that still lies buried in the ground in Centralia. This was set up as a memorial for the working class town to be opened in 2016 which would be Centralia's 150th Anniversary. Whether the residents return to open it on that date is yet to be seen.
The Weather Channel selected portions of this video for their "Most Toxic Ghost Towns" video. In case you're interested, here is the link:
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