A Brief History
The Centralia Mine Fire

  • (Borough of Centralia, Columbia County)

    February 1996

  • Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

    Department of Environmental Protection

    Centralia Mine Fire


    _ May 1962.

    · Fire Commences.

    _ 1962 ­ 1978.

    · State and Federal governments expend $3.3 million

    ($10.8 million in 1994 $) to control fire with limited results.

    _ 1979 ­ 1982.

    · The United States Office of Surface Mining (OSM) acquires 34 impacted properties and contracts for a study to determine its potential to spread.

    · DER (i.e. DEP) initiates air quality monitoring program.

    _ 1983.

    · OSM study estimates that $663 million is required to extinguish fire.

    · A vital transportation link, Route 61, suffers severe subsidence damage from fire. DER stabilizes roadway at a cost of approximately

    $0.5 million.

    _ 1984.

    · U.S. Congress appropriates $42 million for voluntary acquisition and relocation of impacted businesses and residences due to dangers caused by fire (i.e. subsidence & noxious gases).

    · Grant administration ceded to the state.

    · Previously acquired properties transferred to Commonwealth.

    _ 1985 ­ 1991.

    · 545 residences and businesses acquired and residents moved.

    _ January 1992.

    · The Centralia Task Force, with authorization from OSM, utilizes condemnation procedures to acquire properties and relocate remaining residents. This action is taken due to threat from noxious gases and subsidence.

    _ 1992 ­ 1993.

    · Condemnation procedures initiated against remaining 53 properties.

    · Property owners file preliminary legal objections to this action.

    · Borough, as owner of minerals located under the municipality, brings suit against "de facto" taking of coal by condemnation.

    · Route 61 closed indefinitely due to fire damage.

    _ 1993­Present.

    · Fire continues to spread.

    · Total expenditure of funds is approximately $40 million ($53 million in 1995 $).

    · County court denies property owners' objections (February 1994) and decides against Borough (November 1993).

    · State Supreme Court also rules against property owners (September 1995) and Borough (December 1995).

    · Federal grant's expiration date is currently set at December 31, 1997. This coincides with Commonwealth agreements' termination dates.

    Impact & Costs
    (February 1996)



    Current Commonwealth Services
    (February 1996)

    Department of Community Affairs

    Department of Environmental Protection

    Legislative Representation


    Interested Parties

    _ United States House of Representatives. (11th District)

    · Paul E. Kanjorski.

    _ Senate of Pennsylvania. (27th District)

    · Edward W. Helfrick.

    _ Pennsylvania House of Representatives. (107th District)

    · Robert E. Belfanti, Jr.

    _ Interested Parties.

    · United States Congressman Tim Holden. (6th District)

    · State Senator James J. Rhoades. (29th District)

    · State Representative Edward J. Lucyk. (123rd District)