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The Burning Town of Centralia, Pennsylvania Sparks Scientific Curiosity

Known as the “coal country”, the area under the town of Centralia burned suddenly. Nobody knew how the fire under their town started. Local legend says that somebody accidentally ignited the underground layer of coal or seam when he burned trash near the mine shafts. But there is one thing the townspeople are certain of. Shortly before Memorial Day in 1962, a fire broke out in the town’s coal mine of near the Odd Fellows Cemetery.

It soon became obvious that even the most aggressive methods wouldn’t stop the spread of the flames. Residents would simply have to wait for the fire to burn itself out. 

Unfortunately for the townspeople, the fire outlasted them for the area was full of underground material just waiting to be ignited. Eventually, the people went out of Centralia by their own choice (some of them were bought out by the government), as the fire caused the opening of sinkholes and the release of toxic gases, making the town too dangerous. Some families would still dare to remain in the town, though.

This phenomenon would later spark curiosity within the scientific community within Pennsylvania, and outside Pennsylvania.

Find out what makes this town interesting on Wired.

(Image Credit: Aaron Muderick/ Quanta Magazine)

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