Fight To Quench Coal Fire Continues

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SIMPSON — Officials from the Department of Environmental Protection said Thursday it may take time to put out a coal fire burning near Simpson.

Officials think it’s been burning since sometime in December. They still don’t know what sparked the fire that’s now spread across a culm bank, or how deep the underground fire goes.

If you’ve been through northern Lackawanna County over the past few months you may have seen the smoke. It originates from a 7-acre patch of land in Simpson near Carbondale that’s been burning since at least mid-December.

It’s now so big that the crews working on it look miniscule compared to the billows of smoke.

Now, officials from the Department of Environmental Protection said they are still a long way from putting out the coal refuse fire.

Newswatch 16 first spoke with Joe Shivitz last month. He lives a few miles away in Wayne County and said the smell of sulfur has kept he and his wife up at night. He said Thursday it’s only gotten worse its only gotten worse.

“It gets bad, some days it’s really bad, it’ll just be a haze over this whole valley other times it goes south,” Shivitz said.

DEP officials said they still don’t know what sparked the fire that’s now affecting thousands of people in Lackawanna County’s up-valley with the smoke and a sulfur-like smell.

Crews have been digging since December, more the 40 feet below ground, and are still finding burning material. At the same time they quench the top with water.

Officials with the DEP have been pumping 1. 6 million gallons of water and putting it on this fire each day. And they expect to do that for at least another month.

“Now we’re working on 7 acres of land, and it really is, as I keep saying, an exploratory mission. We don’t have any maps to guide us on this. We dig, we see how deep the fire is, we continue to dig, that’s how deep we see the fire is,” said DEP spokesperson Colleen Connolly.

Connolly said now crews are trying to keep the fire from spreading to nearby coal seams. Then the fire would become much more serious.

DEP officials added there is no danger to the public. Just smoke and a smell, that sometimes if the wind is to the north, overwhelms Joe Shivitz’s Browndale neighbors.

“That’s ridiculous, you know? But they’ve got to do it, the fire’s got to be put out. It’s just too bad that it’s gone on this long,” added Tony Laguzzi.

The DEP was given federal funds to pay for the project. But since its going on longer than expected, the price is going up to. When it’s all said and done, officials expect the project to cost $2 million.


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  • Harrison Krenitsky

    You have got to be kidding! I thought this crap ended decades ago in Old Forge, Taylor and Scranton’s Southside when they fought those mine fires, not to mention the mine fire in Centralia, Pa. I thought the people from Lackawanna County and Simpson would have learned some lessons from the 50’s and 60’s decades. They need to find the individual or individuals who started this fire and bring them to justice as an example of ignorance and stupidity. The Taylor column pile burned throughout the whole time I grew up in the Scranton area and attended Taylor-Moosic High School in Taylor. On low pressure metrological days the smell was worse than that put out of the steel mill coke plants of Youngstown, Ohio. The sulfur smell and air quality was so bad that it peeled paint from the homes within a mile radius of the burning pile. The residences of Lackawanna County ought to be expressing outrage over this.

    • Jonathan

      Your an idiot, nothing you said has any value. What lesson is to be learned? This isn’t because of a companies negligence? What crap was suppose to “end” and what does cities and towns 20 miles away that had issues have to do with another town?

      Cause of the fire has not been determined… So “who” exactly do you think should have the ax fall on them?

      What is this outrage you speak of? The fire could have started because of a naturally occurring event. The proper govt agencies are on site trying to resolve the problem.

      I swear it was a horrible idea to allow these middle to late aged people to be aloud on the internet where the option to speak is available. It’s almost like if you don’t let everyone know whatever trouble making nonsense that is swirling around in your head and somehow make the issue about you, your not happy.

      When they decide to give up, stop working and if it’s found out to be that a person started the fire and the govt refuses to take appropriate action against this person then you can voice your concerns. Until then do every a common courtesy and STIFLE!

  • mdog

    Reclaiming Shale PILES in PA.
    Congressional Sleight of Hand Makes Abandoned Coal Mine Clean-Up Funds Disappear
    AUGUST 31, 2012 | 10:30 AM

    • mdog

      Looks to be one of millions of coal/shale/waste mountains
      that’s ablaze. We have processed a couple of these for the trapped fuel
      they contain. No need to frack when we have these mountains of energy just waiting to be tapped. Why frack when so much reclaimed real estate and free fuel is available? Why did Dems screw this up in the first place? Would you frack Alaska? The Rain Forests? California?

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