Editor's Note: This transcript was automatically transcribed, so mistakes are inevitable. You can contribute by proofreading the transcript or highlighting the mistakes. Sign up to be amongst the first contributors.
Hey, and welcome to the short stuff. I'm Josh. There's Chuck. Josh for Jack doesn't matter. And this is stuff you should know.
This is short stuff. Yeah, short stuff. You should know, man. My mind took. You're right. No. OK, let's continue. I think we're talking about Centralia. Yeah. Which we've talked about before. I don't know if it was in an abandoned places episode or I think that I don't remember what else we would have talked about it in, but we have definitely talked about it.
Yeah. Unless we talked about coal, maybe. But that that's the Venn diagram of abandoned places and coal sits Centralia, Pennsylvania. All right. The very smallest municipality in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Missouri. And it is a former mining community. A couple of hours northwest of Philly. That was always a small town, a small mining town. I think it only had about fourteen hundred people there in the early 1960s. But now there are less than 10 people.
For one very scary reason.
What is that? Well, the scary reason is that when you're walking around Centralia, the earth may open up and swallow you into a fiery pit at any given moment without it. Yeah. Was that a good way to say it? Thank you. Yeah. So what's what happened? Well. We don't know exactly what happened. There's a few different versions of this story that will go over in a second, but the end result of each of these stories is that in 1962, there is still burning from that year, a coal seam fire.
Literally, coal on fire underground under Centralia and the surrounding area of Centralia, Pennsylvania. Right. Which is I mean, that's a very alarming thing, because I think any person who hears that says, well, how would you put one of those out? And the answer to that is by the time it's been burning for 70 years, you don't. It burns itself out. And then an average reasonable person would be like, oh, there's a lot of coal underground.
Can it just keep burning, like, indefinitely? And the answer to that reasonable person is absolutely.
So these seams are naturally occurring. Coal deposits, they're called seams in the industry. They are sort of like veins that run through the earth that are made of coal. And they can. It's not like this is a rare thing. Coal seam fires happen. A lot can happen all over and do happen all over the world.
I had no idea. I mean, I have known about Santorelli as fire for many, many years, but I had no idea that this is a very common thing. It's very alarming, really. Centralia. What did I say? He sits Centralia, and you don't want to anger those 10 people. It's like saying that Nevada. Which way do they not like it?
They say only people in Nevada call it Nevada. Okay. Yeah. Everybody else calls that Nevada really makes them mad. All right. Don't want to do that to the people. The good people of Centralia. All 10 of them.
So I'm just going to call it Sea Town and to cover my bases. Yeah, okay.
Because now, if I if I just spend time thinking about it, it'll just totally derail this whole episode. Let's go back to coal seam fire. Okay. So they're very common, like you said, apparently in China. Something like, well, there's a three thousand mile stretch of a coal mining belt around China. And I guess at any given time, a pretty decent proportion of it is on fire with these coal seam fires. It's problematic. There's a town in India called Jowhar here, and it has had coal seam fire going on since 1918 and has lost something like 41 million tons of coal to this fire, just up in smoke, quite literally.
Yeah, obviously, this happens more often if the miners didn't do the right thing when they left. So, like, they're down there mining and they've got these tunnels and you've got to take care that stuff when you leave. You can't just say, all right, we're out of here and put the gone fishing sign out front.
Well, unfortunately, a lot of mine owners have done that for a very long time.
Yeah. Absolutely. So if you don't have, like, the right supports to keep the ground from collapsing, that can be a fire risk as well. Yeah, I got to get a philomene. I saw also, Chuck, that there is this company that developed the what they call a cellular phone. It's actually a mixture of Portland cement and fly ash, which is a very difficult waste to get rid of. And some other stuff. And it's a foam.
You can spray on whatever coal's leftover and it will prevent this fire from these fires from catching, which is a really great thing, big. And also it gets rid of, like I said, that fly waste or fly ash waste. That's that's tough to remediate on its own. So you're killing two birds with one stone. But one of the reasons that you would want to seal off whatever coal seam is left after you abandoned the mine is because it's not just the dipstick humans who set coal seam fires like they can happen quite naturally, too.
And then because that's a very tantalizing thing to say. I suggest, Chuck, that we take an ad break right now.
All right. Let's do it. Hello, this is Leah Remini. And I am joined by Mike Rinder, and we are so excited to continue this journey with a new podcast called Scientology. Fair Game. Mike, thank you for continuing this journey with me. And thank you for continuing to fight.
Of course, Leah. And the same to you. I couldn't be happier to be back together in the saddle again, taking on the subject of the abuses of Scientology. And hopefully with this podcast, we can get into things in even greater depth and perhaps more incisively than we were able to do in the limitations of a network TV show.
So we got a lot to do here.
Leah, guess who isn't happy about this podcast? Mike Scientology. So gear up.
Scientology can be a bumpy ride. Listen to Scientology fair game on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Hey, I'm Steve Greenberg, the host of My Hearts new podcast, Speed of Sound. Speed of Sound is a music history podcast that gives you an all access pass into the songs and sounds that have become the soundtrack to our lives.
You'll hear how the hits really hit the top of the charts straight from the artists and innovators who created them from groundbreaking cultural shifts like the teen pop explosion of the mid 90s to dance crazes like The Twist and Disco Studio 54 changed the entire game.
It felt you were a magical place. And if they played your music, wow, you really will delve into left field pop music phenomena like the monster mash and even who let the dogs out? A guy barking and singing about dogs. I thought, this has got to be a joke. We'll take you back in time and straight through today's charts to tackle Pop's top songs and most sensational scandal filled stories.
Obviously, people were doing drugs, could be up at that hour, not be doing drugs, you know, Speed of Sound premieres July 28.
Listen and follow speed of sound on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcast or wherever you listen to podcasts. All right. Now is the pay off, everybody. Coal seam fires can start under natural circumstances. Coach Chuck.
Yeah, they are. They can even spontaneously combust. And once they get going, especially this anthracite coal, it is very, very hard to put out, produces a lot of heat. And that that's self-heating it just sort of is a cyclical thing. It just sort of stays on fire. And that's why when you're shipping coal, it's you know, it's dangerous to ship coal when they get on those big steamer ships.
It's dangerous. Yeah, because the the the coal oxidizes, I think Payet pyrite inside the coal as it oxidizes, it starts to heat up. So the coal can heat up from inside out and it can get hot enough that it can actually self ignite spontaneously combust like you were saying. So imagine having like a tanker ship full of coal and you're a sailor on that ship and you are fully aware that coal can spontaneously ignite. Wouldn't you be nervous? Maybe a little nerve wracking, especially because.
So you know that that ship is on fire in San Diego, the Navy ship right now, right? Yeah. And they were saying that it's reaching temperatures of about 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. And it was melting steel. It was that hot. Well, friend, the coal seam fire in Centralia, did I say right? It's in trailer, man. It has been shown to reach at least temperatures of 13 hundred and fifty degrees, which is something like seven hundred and thirty two degrees Celsius.
So if that happened on your ship, it would definitely burn a hole right through your ship and you'd be sunk down to Davy Jones locker.
Yeah. So how this thing started? There are a few different versions. My money's on probably the most popular version, which was on May 27, 1962. They burned a landfill on purpose. This was something that the, you know, would happen regularly is you would burn the trash literally. And this trash burn kind of got into that coal seam and boom, there you have it. And it started a fire that has never been put out to this day.
Other versions of the story was that it was another garbage fire and not that one on May. Twenty seventh lit by a truck driver. And then another one is that it started in the 1930s, I think, and has just been around. And then in the 1960s, it was kind of noticed for the first time.
Yeah, I like that one myself. Oh yeah. Yeah. The idea that it was kind of smoldering and then all of a sudden, you know.
Maybe a flapper through their their cigarette. I can totally see that, sir. That might be sexist, though, so let's just say it could have been a flapper or a boy toy.
OK. Either way, though, that thing caught on fire, started sweeping through those tunnels. We're talking 100 to 300 feet down below the earth is is still on fire. You can still see it today. There's some cool little short version YouTube documentaries where news crews have gone out and stuff about Centralia.
And on rainy days, you just you stand there, especially in rainy days, and you just see that steam and smoke coming out right from the earth itself.
Yeah. Which is why one reason why it gave rise to the video game and then later on the movie Silent Hill, it's just this creepy abandoned town, although the astounding thing is that it's not fully abandoned. Like you said, there are some people there still. I think there's 10 people that live there still and they live there because they basically said, I'm not moving. And so the government of Pennsylvania finally said, fine, you you guys, you lifelong residents of original residents of Centralia, you can stay here until you die.
And what do you say in Jill said Centralia in it, whether it's in Trolly again. I don't care. I don't care anymore. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. People of setout. And I'm mispronouncing your name. I'm offending 10 people right now.
Well, the government tried to get them out of there. They took away their zip code in 2002. They were like, sorry, no zip code. I don't know if they were like, we need that for somewhere else or we're just retiring it. That's quite a burden. A big burden, no pun intended. They took away Route 61 or part of it. At least that ran through there. And some people say it's closed for other other people say like it could reopen again one day.
I don't think it will.
No. Who says it could reopen one day? That's ridiculous. And one of those documentaries is like, you know, the idea was if this thing gets under control, they could rebuild the road and now it centrally is.
One reason why they decided to move everybody out of there and it was done with taxpayer funded, basically like moving fund and everyone is given up hope. Well, the reason why they started moving everybody, I think in the early 80s, some kid was playing in one of the streets in the street, just collapsed under him, and he was hanging by his fingers above this like burning pit that he was about to drop into. And they're like, okay, I don't think Centralia is safe to live in.
That was 40 years ago. So the town's done nothing but get more unstable since then. So they're at the very least, that highway is not opening back up. They've also, you know, demolished like 500 buildings there, too.
You know, actually happened to that kid, what, in 1982 is he went to investigate some smoke. Mm hmm. And the thing exploded and shot him 50 feet up into the air. I think it was a different kid. Was it? I don't know. I don't like the idea that I got something wrong.
And it just so happened to be on the same day that a bunch of news crews and local politicians were there. And that was not a good look at all. No, for sure. The kid live, by the way.
Great. Well, the kid lived in my version, too. Yeah, that's good. That's good.
They've tried a bunch of things over the years to extinguish it. They put vent pipes in in the 80s. And the idea there was not to put out the fire, but to direct these noxious gases cause, you know, there's all kinds of nasty stuff being put into the air to vent those at least away from the town. And some people said that's not working. And in fact, it's feeding the fire with oxygen. So they seal them up.
Right. So where does that leave us, Chuck? Well, they've also tried to put it out altogether.
In 1969, they dug sort of like a firebreak.
They dug a trench down to try and reach that seam in front of the fire. But the fire went so fast they didn't go far enough ahead. It beat them to where they were digging down and they just went and that's right.
But apparently that's like. That's kind of par for the course like that. You know, they're just really tough to put out. You can kind of understand how that would be the case from from what I've read. You have to stay on top of it immediately after you notice this and then. Yeah, continue monitoring it basically indefinitely because it can't just keep flaring up. And in fact, there's a there's something called Burning Mountain. Mount Wenjin or wingin in New South Wales.
Australia. They think has been burning for 6000 years now. Really? Yeah, really. Well, that's very stuff, I think so, too. But that was a good one, don't you think? I think it's great. Great. Well, we hope that you think the same thing, too. And since we've run out of stuff to talk about about Centralia, short stuff is out. Stuff you should know is a production of heart radio's how stuff works.
For more podcasts, My Heart Radio, I hate radio app, Apple podcast or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.