Route 61 in Centralia is consumed by an underground fire since 1962

A short section of Pennsylvania Route 61 (PA 61) is officially destroyed in the town of Centralia, in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. The road has been consumed by an underground mine fire since 1962. The cause of the fire is suspected to be from trash burning that ignited a coal strip in a cave.

Abandoned Route 61 (Centralia)

Is Centralia still burning?

Located in Columbia County, no one knows exactly how it started, but a coal vein has been burning under the Pennsylvania mining town of Centralia since 1962. The fire still burns today beneath about four hundred acres of surface land, and it's still growing. It's not completely clear how the fire started, but most historical accounts hold that the fire is believed to have started when a landfill near an abandoned strip mine was set on fire, eventually reaching an exposed coal vein. The fire spread throughout a labyrinth of coal mines beneath the town, creating a giant underground inferno. The fire burns in underground coal mines at depths of up to 300 feet over an eight-mile stretch of 3,700 acres. The fire continues to burn, and at its current rate, it could burn for over 250 more years. The citizens of Centralia abandoned the unsafe town in 1984. Today, Centralia is a modern ghost town.

Is Route 61 in Centralia still in use?

The closed road, nicknamed The Graffiti Highway, is 1.18 km (0.73) miles long. It was bypassed by Byrnsville Road, part of Pennsylvania Route 61 because the old Highway 61 that used to bring traffic to Centralia was destroyed by the underground fire. It is constantly subsiding with smoke usually billowing out from the pits and separations that will continue to get wider and deeper day-by-day. This is called subsidence. The old highway 61 is now buckled and cracked. The new highway section totally bypasses the former town site. It avoids the damaged area and is considered a safer route for traffic.

Is Centralia safe?

It's important to note that Centralia, including Route 61 and the Graffiti Highway, poses potential dangers, and visitors are advised to exercise caution and adhere to safety warnings. Visitation is not recommended due to the many hazards associated with abandoned mine sites and coal mine fires in particular. Centralia is not an official tourist attraction, and there used to be signs around town warning visitors of danger. The gases are considered dangerous, so proceed at your own risk. Today, there are fewer places where gases can be found venting. The area encompassed by the Centralia Mine Fire is extremely dangerous. Walking and/or driving in the immediate area could result in serious injury or death. The most unstable ground with the borough collapsed years ago. There are dangerous gases present, and the ground is prone to sudden and unexpected collapse. As such, your car will provide little protection in the event that you get into a car accident due to the conditions. This fact strongly discourages anyone from visiting the immediate area.

Is Centralia worth it?

Tucked away in the north-central part of Pennsylvania, the town has been a model for various movies that wanted to give a hell-like appearance to a ghost town. It has drawn attention from urban explorers, photographers, and those interested in the eerie ambiance created by the abandoned road and the ongoing mine fire. Today the road is a popular destination for urban explorers and apparently aspiring graffiti artists
Pic: Nate Mueller