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Centralia is in Pennsylvania’s western middle anthracite field, a large synclinorium in Columbia and Schuylkill Counties. Centralia residents set fire to a landfill at the edge of town in 1962, thereby igniting the Buck Mountain coal bed. Laurel Run is in Pennsylvania’s northern anthracite field, on the northwest-dipping limb of the Wyoming Valley syncline. In 1915, a miner’s abandoned carbide lamp started a fire at Laurel Run, igniting the Red Ash, Top Red Ash, and Bottom Ross coal beds.

The Centralia and Laurel Run fires are burning out of control. Subsidence and the venting of toxic gases have destroyed...

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