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A Brief History of the Centralia Mine Fire
(Borough of Centralia, Columbia County)

May 1962

  • Fire Commences

1962 to 1978

  • State andfederal governments expend $3.3 million to control fire with limited results.

1979 to 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.


  • 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.


  • U.S. Congress appropriates $42 million for voluntary acquisition and relocation of impacted businesses and residences due to dangers caused by fire (i.e. noxious gases & subsidence).
  • Grant administration ceded to the state.
  • Previously acquired properties transferred to commonwealth.

1985 to 1991

  • 545 residences and businesses acquired and residents moved.

Jan 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 to 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.

1993 to Present

  • Fire continues to spread.
  • Total expenditure of relocation funds (1983 to present) is approximately $41.6 million.
  • County court decides against borough (November 1993) and denies property owners' objections (February 1994).
  • State Supreme Court rules against property owners (September 1995) and Borough (December 1995).
  • Centralia Mine Fire Mercury Study Final Report (March 2008).
  • Five remaining property owners with active legal proceedings (January 2012).

Comparison of Impact & Costs

  • Impact
    • 1962
      • Population of 1,100
      • 545 families and businesses
    • 2013
      • Population offive owners
  • Total Costs for Fire Control and Relocation
    • $48.8 Million

Current CommonwealthInvolvement

Department of Community and Economic Development

  • Demolition of Vacant Structures
  • Population Relocation

Department of Environmental Protection

  • Environmental Impact (i.e. Yearly On-Site Monitoring of Fire)