How long will Centralia’s coal seam fire burn for? In short it’s probably going to continue burning for a really, really long time.
The mine fire in Centralia, PA began when the town’s landfill was lit on fire in order to clean it up for Memorial Day 1962. This means that the fire has already been burning for well over 50 years!
Through the decades, the intensity of the coal seam fire has risen and fallen. During the 1960s and 1970s, little was done in part because the fire was neither moving quickly nor threatening many residents of Centralia, Pennsylvania.
That changed significantly in the early 1980s. By this time, the fire moved quickly under parts of Centralia and raged with fearsome intensity. Hot mine gasses spewed from the ground and into homes. Residents were sickened by carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. One boy, Todd Domboski, was almost killed as the ground gave way under him and enveloped him in steaming hot mine fumes!
Numerous studies have been done of the Centralia, PA geology and the abandoned coal mines under the town. Unfortunately, none have been able to draw any firm conclusions about the projected path of the fire and how much coal is left to burn.
A few say there is hardly any coal left to burn, and the fire is nearly out. Many others, like the one cited in the Christian Science Monitor in 2010, estimate there is easily enough coal under the town to burn for another 250 years. That means it will be another two centuries until the Centralia coal seam fire is finally extinguished!
Whatever the case, it seems pretty clear that the fire has had and will continue to have a lasting impact on anyone who chooses to live in that region of Pennsylvania. As one painted sign in the town used to read “Centralia Mine Fire Is Our Future!”