Tragedy struck this Pennsylvania coal mining town in 1962, when a fire at the local dump kindled an exposed vein of coal, which in turn ignited an underground fire that, over the course of the next two decades, eventually destroyed nearly every building, home, and structure in its path. Centralia, a tight-knit community of 1,400 residents, was transformed into a ghost town. The fire is still raging on today, and some scientists believe it could take another 250 years to fully extinguish it. But that fact hasn’t convinced all of the town’s residents to relocate; approximately 10 of them remain today, including more than one priest.
Getting there: Because toxic gases and subsidence are still very much realities in Centralia, it’s not a tourist type of “ghost town.” And the truth is that there’s not much to see in Centralia today, which probably explains why so many people drive right through (local routes 42, 54, and 61 all pass through it) without ever knowing its history. If you do drive through, use caution and common sense: Heed any and all signs against trespassing and dangers, and if you see steam and/or smoke rising out of the ground (a common occurrence), remember that a faraway glimpse can equally satisfy your interest.
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