It could burn for much longer.
With a population of less than 10, Centralia, Pennsylvania has become a near ghost town. The mining town once flourished with a population of almost 2,500 people, but residents had to relocate 54 years ago when the city began to burn both on land and underground.
Initially, the plan was to burn the town’s landfill in 1962. Unfortunately, the townspeople didn’t realize that the landfill was also a strip mine pit that was connected to a series of mining tunnels filled with coal. This created a massive fire that devastated parts of the small town.
The townspeople were able to extinguish the fire on ground, but were unable to tame the fire now burning underneath their city.
The fire became widespread, with depths from about 300 feet below the town’s surface covering an eight-mile stretch. The ground began to open up, releasing gases and sink holes started appearing in yards. Still, residents chose to live in the town.
A 12-year-old boy was standing outside when the ground below him collapsed, sending him down into a fiery sink hole about 300-feet deep. Luckily, the boy grabbed onto a tree root until he received help from his cousin. Due to this incident and outrageously high levels of carbon monoxide coming from the cracks and sink holes, most of the citizens said “enough is enough” and relocated.
Fifty-four years after the inferno started, smoke still emerges from the ground. There are signs warning visitors that they could be swallowed up by the ground, yet the town’s remaining residents fight to remain on the map. Teens from surrounding areas come to the ghost town as if it’s a haunted house attraction, while people across the web believe the unusual scenes resemble “Silent Hill.”
In 2013, only seven residents remained in the city, hoping that their small town will one day thrive again—but the Smithsonian Magazine believes there’s enough coal under the town to fuel 250 more years of fire below.