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)