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History Of Centralia

 

Centralia Pennsylvania Circa 1906Tap To Enlarge!

 

Centralia Pennsylvania.:1865:.   A post office was established along with changing the town's name from Centreville to Centralia. The name was changed to Centralia because there already was a Centreville in Schuylkill County and the Postal Service would not allow duplicate named Post Offices.

 

Centralia Pennsylvania.:1866:.   Centralia was incorporated as a Borough.

 

Centralia Borough

 

Centralia Pennsylvania.:1962:.   Underground fire "may" have started as early as May.



Two popular theories on how the fire actually started...


Centralia, Pennsylvania Mine Fire         Centralia, Pennsylvania Mine Fire

Theory One:    In May 1962 the Centralia Borough Council five members of the volunteer fire company to clean up the town landfill (near abandoned strip mine pit next to the Odd Fellows Cemetery). The firefighters (as they had in the past) set the dump on fire and let it burn and then extinguished the fire. Unfortunately, it appears that the fire was not completely extinguished.


 

Theory Two:    One of two trash haulers (Curly Stasulevich or Sam Devine) dumped hot ash and/or coal (discard from coal burners) into an open trash pit. It appears that there were some hot coals present that penetrated a vein of coal underneath the pit and caught fire.

Further Research:     My Centralia Reporting - April 26th, 2007 - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


     

    First, I interviewed several former residents who were present at the dump in the hours and days after the mine fire started. These eyewitnesses include Mary Lou Gaughan, who ran to watch the firefighters at the dump, where she overheard a bystander say that someone had flung hot ashes on the landfill. Her account with -- and provided fresh insight into -- an explanation I heard frequently over the years when I asked former residents how the fire started: someone heaved hot ashes on the dump. Another eyewitness, who went to the landfill either the day the fire started or the next day, with me, on condition of anonymity, what a firefighter said during this visit: Curly Stasulevich was just up here and he dumped a lot of hot ashes.

    Second, on June 4, 1962, when borough council met for the first time after the fire started, the meeting minutes report that five firemen submitted bills for "fighting the fire at the landfill area" on May 27. This squares with the eyewitness accounts I excavated, that a fire was already burning in the landfill by May 27 and had to be fought. And, as Mary Lou overheard at the landfill on May 27, the firefighters thought they had extinguished the fire -- the one started by hot ashes the day before.

    Third, minutes from the June 4 meeting report two fires at the dump. They also refer to a May 27 "cleaning" of the dump with a front-end loader. In Centralia, "cleaning" the dumps typically meant the fire company's annual spring ritual of igniting the top layer of refuse, to minimize odors and vermin. There is no mention or discussion of the other fire. And with borough officials obviously concerned about the landfill fire, presumably out of loyalty to Stasulevich, his dumping and the blaze it caused were the episode to omit, as the minutes did.

    This evidence buttresses my conclusion about when and how the fire started. In his own book, (p. 25), Mr. DeKok admitted uncertainty about his sequence of events. "Perhaps there is no way to prove that the fire of May 27, 1962 became the Centralia mine fire," he wrote, "but the weight of the evidence supports that conclusion." My extensive research, including new sources I cultivated and a fresh look at existing documents, led me to a different conclusion.

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Centralia Pennsylvania.:1979:.   Locals became aware of the scale of the problem when a gas-station owner and then mayor, John Coddington, inserted a stick into one of his underground tanks to check the fuel level. The temperature of the gasoline in the tank was 172 °F. Statewide attention to the fire began to increase.


Coddington Gas StationJohn Coddington Behind Counter

 

Centralia Pennsylvania.:1981:.   On Valentine’s Day a 12-year-old resident (Todd Domboski) almost fell into a 4' X 150' deep hole (that suddenly opened beneath his feet) while playing in his grandmother's backyard. He was saved only after his older cousin, Eric Wolfgang, pulled him from the mouth of the hole before he could plunge to his probable death.


Todd Domboski Circa 1982

 

Centralia Pennsylvania.:1984:.   Congress allocated more than $42 million for relocation efforts. A few families opted to stay despite warnings from state officials.


Centralia Relocation Project

 

Centralia Pennsylvania.:1992:.   Pennsylvania claimed Eminent Domain on all properties in the borough thereby condemning all the buildings within.

 

Centralia Pennsylvania.:2002:.   The United States Postal Service closed and revoked Centralia's ZIP Code (17927).


Centralia Post Office Circa 2002

 

 


 

 

ADDITIONAL HISTORY

 

 

PDF FileChapter XXII - Conyngham Township and Borough of CentraliaPDF File

 

57KB PDF
Source: Columbia County Pennsylvania Genealogy Project

 

 

PDF FileConyngham Township and Borough of CentraliaPDF File

 

60KB PDF
Source: Columbia County, Pennsylvania PAGenWeb