Believe it or not, Centralia Pennsylvania once had a gas and service station. This was owned and operated by John Coddington and his family.
Unfortunately for the Coddingtons, their gas station was located directly in the path of the Centralia mine fire. The fire had begun burning in 1962 near Odd Fellows Cemetery, which was several hundred feet to the east of the gas station.
By 1979, the mine fire in Centralia PA was on the move. It had migrated under Locust Avenue and towards John Coddington’s service station.
According to David DeKok, author of Fire Underground, the first signs of trouble came on morning of November 21, 1979. John Coddington noticed some strange wisps of steam coming from a vacant lot next to his gas station. Two days after it was discovered, the temperature of the steam was measured at 122 degrees Fahrenheit.
A few weeks later, in early December, John Coddington saw additional steam coming from his dirt basement floor. When he touched the floor it felt warm. This was a cause for real concern, as the station had four underground tanks that were able to hold 9000 gallons of gasoline. If the gas got hot enough, it could ignite and explode!
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources (DER) was called out to inspect the situation. They measured the temperature of the basement floor and found it to be 136 degrees Fahrenheit.
DER also began monitoring the temperature of the gasoline in the station’s tanks. To their surprise, the temperature of the gasoline was rising. As a result, John Coddington called the Pennsylvania State Police fire marshal. The marshal ordered the tanks drained of gasoline and filled with water to protect against a potential explosion.
So in early December of 1979, Centralia PA’s only gas and service station was closed for good. The structure would remain for several more years until John Coddington and his family could be placed into temporary housing and later permanently relocated. On November 9, 1981, the station became one of the first buildings in Centralia to be demolished because of the growing mine fire.
Today the remains of John Coddington’s gas and service station are still visible in Centralia Pennsylvania. A large section of weathered asphalt can be found near the corner of South Street and Locust Avenue/Route 61. This used to be the paved area in front of the station.