It’s May 1962, and a vast landfill blights the town of Centralia, Philadelphia. Keen to wipe the unsightly heap out for good, officials set the trash alight. But as they wait for the flames to die down, they slowly realize that something has gone wrong. In fact, they’ve inadvertently started an inferno that will rage for decades to come.
The story of Centralia began back in the 18th century, when settlers purchased the area from local Native Americans. And within a few decades, the land had passed into the ownership of Robert Morris – one of the signatories of America’s Declaration of Independence.
Then, after Morris went bankrupt, the district was purchased by a French sailor. The seafarer had apparently heard rumors that valuable anthracite coal deposits were to be found in this particular corner of Pennsylvania. However, it wasn’t until 1854 that a settlement in the area really took off. That year, the Mine Run Railroad arrived in the town – which back then went by the name of Bull’s Head.