A few people have asked if it is dangerous to visit Centralia PA. In short, not really. Though, you do have to be careful.
The main danger to visitors exploring the borough is subsidence. Subsidence occurs when the ground gives way to form a sink hole or other change in elevation The mine fire under Centralia Pennsylvania has increased the risk of sudden, unexpected subsidence.
Over the years, the fire has burned away timbers and other bracing within the abandoned coal mine tunnels under the town. This has destabilized them and created the potential for mine collapse.
The hot gases from the fire have also played a role in weakening the ground. The most famous example of this occurred on Valentine’s Day in 1981 when Todd Domboski nearly died after he fell into a sink hole near his home.
It was later determined that Domboski had fallen into an old mine shaft that was filled in years before. Steam and gases from the mine fire had soften the fill and made it unstable to walk on.
Additionally, the gases from the Centralia PA mine fire can be dangerous if breathed in. Carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and methane can all asphyxiate a person. Gases from the mine fire were one of the reasons many people chose to relocate from the town in the 1980s.
Thankfully, as the fire has moved over the years, Centralia Pennsylvania appears to have become less dangerous. Today, there are fewer places where gases can be found venting. Also, the most unstable ground with the borough collapsed years ago.
There used to be signs around town warning visitors danger. These were put up by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to provide legal protection in case of an accident. After taking the borough by eminent domain in 1992, the state wanted to ensure it was not liable for anyone getting hurt.
If you plan on visiting, Centralia PA use your best judgement when exploring. Stick to walking on roads and paths. Keep a safe distance from any areas with venting steam or gases. Most of all, if the ground feels soft or unstable, get out of there. The mine fire is still burning and there is still a real risk of ground subsidence.