Centralia Mine Fire Turns 53 Years Old

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CENTRALIA -- The Centralia mine fire has been burning for 53 years to the day.

It was back on May 27, 1962 when that fire broke out, eventually turning the community in Columbia County into a ghost town.

“Centralia, oh, Centralia was a fantastic place. Everybody knew everybody.”

For 53 years to the day, a mine fire continues to burn deep below the ghost town of Centralia.

Mary Lou Gaughan lived in Centralia for 47 years before finally allowing the government to buy her home.

“Terrible, my kids were born there and they were baptized and all their confirmation and everything and they grew up,” said Gaughan. “It was sad, sad time yes.”

There are only a few homes still standing in Centralia as seven residents fought the government for years to stay.

Just two years ago, those residents came to an agreement with state and county officials that allows them to live here until they pass away.

Many of those residents whose homes where bought out ended up moving just over the county line, to a community in Kulpmont, Northumberland County.

While it's now known as the Den Mar Gardens development, back then it was known as New Centralia.

“It was nicknamed originally New Centralia.”

Jack Kuzo is one of those residents now living here in Den Mar Gardens after moving out of Centralia in 1991.

“It was sad. We had tears in our eyes when we left the house because we didn't expect to ever more out of there but we did,” said Kuzo. “I think it was hard for people who lived in Centralia because they had lived there longer.”

He still gets a bit homesick every time he passes by what's left of his former community.

“We passed there today, matter of fact and when we passed I point out where our driveway used to be and you actually can't even tell anymore because it's all grown in and the trees and everything,” said Kuzo.

Under the agreement when those remaining residents in Centralia pass away, the government will take their properties through eminent domain.