The borough of Centralia is located in Columbia County, Pennsylvania. In the late 1800s it was a thriving anthracite coal mining town with a population of close to 3,000, but as of 2013 the population is no more than seven.
The diminished population is the result of an underground coal mine fire that has lasted for over fifty years. The fire continues to burn as of 2015 and could last for another 250 years according to some estimates.
It is not definitively known how the fire started back in 1962, but it is believed to be the result of trash burning. The town Council had been deliberating ways to clean up the Centralia landfill, and it is suspected that the dump was burned even though it was prohibited by state law.
Though water was used to extinguish the fire on the night it was started, the flames reappeared several days later. There were several more attempts to contain the fire but it was soon discovered that the smoldering trash had made its way into the intricate pathways of the coal mine beneath the ground.
With no way to smother the inferno, the entire population of Centralia relocated over a short time. Most residents accepted a $42 million buyout allocated by Congress for relocation to nearby towns, while the remaining residents were ordered to leave after the land was overtaken by the state through eminent domain.
Centralia’s ominous smoking streets were the inspiration for the movie, Silent Hill, adapted from the popular video game.