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Pennsylvania's (Almost) Ghost Town

In 1962, a fire at the town landfill was thought to be out. It wasn't. It spread to an open anthracite mine shaft, igniting an underground fire that slowly turned Centralia into a ghost town.

The massive scale of the fire came to attention in 1979, when a gas station owner thought the instrument he used to check the fuel levels in his underground storage tanks felt warm. He dropped a thermometer into the tanks. The ideal temperature for fuel storage is 55 degrees; the fuel in the tanks registered above 170 degrees.

Route 61, the highway leading into town, began to crack and buckle from the heat in 1983 (After years of repairs and more cracks, that section of the highway was closed in 1993).

Finally, in 1984, the Federal government initiated a buyout program for the town's 1,000+ residents. Those who didn't take their share of the $42 million buyout ended up in a protracted legal battle with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which began eviction proceedings for the hold-outs.

In 1993, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania reached an agreement with the remaining residents to live out their days in Centralia, after which their home would be condemned.

Today, there are less than 10 residents left in Centralia. The Postal Service has ceased mail delivery and discontinued the town's zip code. It has no police force (though it does have a small volunteer fire department). And the mine fire is expected to burn for another 250 years.

 

 A stop sign remains on a street where nature is reclaiming the abandoned lots.

A stop sign remains on a street where nature is reclaiming the abandoned lots.

 Old Route 61 has become a magnet for graffiti.

Old Route 61 has become a magnet for graffiti.

 At one point, this was the front walk to someone's house.

At one point, this was the front walk to someone's house.

 Curbs still remain but are being overtaken by nature.

Curbs still remain but are being overtaken by nature.

 Street with no homes.

Street with no homes.

 Sidewalks to nowhere still line some of the streets,

Sidewalks to nowhere still line some of the streets,

 Steps to someone's house.

Steps to someone's house.

 This used to be a driveway.

This used to be a driveway.

 A fire hydrant stands ready in Centralia, ironically, in the event of a fire.

A fire hydrant stands ready in Centralia, ironically, in the event of a fire.