2004 Denver Annual Meeting (November 7–10, 2004)

Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


AURAND Jr, Harold, Department of Humanities, Penn State Univ, Schuylkill Campus, 200 University Drive, Schuylkill Haven, PA 17972 and NOLTER, Melissa, 1426 E. Center St, Mahanoy City, PA 17948, hxa10@psu.edu

The Centralia and Laurel Run coal-mine fires occur in the Western Middle- and Northern Anthracite Fields of eastern Pennsylvania, respectively. The anthracite fields are lithotectonic components of Appalachian Mountain anticlinoria and synclinoria. The fires in the towns of Centralia and Laurel Run differ in their origin, attempted remediation methodologies, and community as well as environmental affects; in addition, each town utilized different resources for combating and coping with a mine fire. In 1915, a miner’s abandoned carbide lamp was responsible for igniting the Red Ash, Top Red Ash, and Bottom Ross coal beds in Laurel Run. The fire was contained by mining companies operating there until 1956, when active underground mining ceased. Subsequently, the fire began burning uncontrollably, as it does today. In spite of requests from Laurel Run community leaders for outside assistance to control the fire, it became necessary for a large part of the town’s community to relocate. In 1962 Centralia residents set fire to a garbage dump, which ignited the Buck Mountain anthracite seam. Community leaders in Centralia made several attempts to control the fire. When their efforts failed, most of the town’s residents were relocated and the fire was left to burn uncontrollably. It continues to do so today. The Centralia fire has received more attention from researchers than Laurel Run. It serves as a model for studying the response of a mining community to a human-induced mine fire and the disasters associated with it.