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Fire Underground: The Ongoing Tragedy Of The Centralia Mine Fire Revised edition Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0762754274
ISBN-10: 0762754273
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Praise for the author's previous book, Fire Underground

“Enough bureaucratic villains to fill a Dickens novel.”
New York Times Book Review

“DeKok has not only reported and written a compelling first-hand account of how an underground fire destroyed Centralia, but he even gives us an anatomy of how the disaster happened and analyzes its implications for one community, and in a sense for all of us. A thoughtful and thoroughly engrossing read!”
―Lisa Scottoline, author of Dirty Blonde, a fictional story about Centralia

"An excellent, unbiased chronicle devoid of the emotionalism which set resident upon resident."
―Library Journal (for the book as previously titled, Unseen Danger)

From the Back Cover

Centralia, Pennsylvania, lived and died by anthracite coal. The town’s population peaked at 2,761 in 1890, but by 1981 had dwindled to just over 1,000—not unusual for a Pennsylvania mining town. But today Centralia has no more than a dozen inhabitants, and they are expected to be gone before long. The reason: an underground fire that has burned since 1962 in the labyrinth of abandoned coal mines beneath Centralia, making parts of the town uninhabitable.

By 1981 the fire was sending deadly gases into homes, making children sick, and one day a twelve-year-old boy dropped into a steaming hole and almost died as a U.S. congressman toured nearby. David DeKok describes how the fire began and how the majority of Centralia residents fought for and finally obtained relocation from the town, even as some of their neighbors claimed there was no threat. He reveals what happened to the few remaining diehards as the fiftieth anniversary of the fire’s beginning nears.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Globe Pequot Press; Revised edition edition (October 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0762754273
  • ISBN-13: 978-0762754274
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #106,984 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David DeKok writes non-fiction books about crises in small American towns and the people who live in them. He has written two books about the Centralia (Pa.) mine fire, Unseen Danger and Fire Underground, and one about a deadly typhoid epidemic in 1903 that devastated Ithaca, New York, and Cornell University. His most recent book, Murder in the Stacks, is about the murder in the Penn State library in 1969 of a young woman from his hometown, Betsy Aardsma. He lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and is a correspondent for Reuters.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book is well written and extremely informative about the ongoing Centralia tragedy.
It is a haunting history that seems more likely to have happened in some Eastern European
village than in the United States. The author addresses the human interest aspect as well
as the scientific and bureaucratic. High schools and colleges around the nation should require this book on their reading lists for science/ecology and government/poli-sci classes.
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Excellent book on the Centrailia mine fire. The book is about the people living with the mine fire and the struggles to be heard by the gov't. I have been to Centralia. It's greepy and intriguing wanting you to learn more. The first book is excellent. This one is even better.
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Format: Paperback
Pennsylvania natives (and lots of folks elsewhere) have heard of Centralia, Pa. -- a small town ravaged by an underground mine fire that has been burning since 1962. David DeKok tells the whole story here. It's a fascinating tale of (bipartisan) bureaucratic bungling, wishful thinking and outright stubbornness. You might think an entire book about a mine fire would get a little dry. Think again. DeKok is a seasoned reporter with an eye for detail who tells the story with verve. I've been to Centralia twice. It's like no other place on earth, and I enjoyed getting the inside story of what really happened there.
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This is a very interesting story, a bit dry at times due to all the detail, but overall a good read. The author did a good job setting the stage describing the political, economic and social structure of Centralia and Penn. in general to help you understand why so many politicians over the course of 50 years consistently made bad decisions and allowed so much damage to property, the environment and people's lives. I would definitely recommend this book.
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Centralia, in Eastern Pennsylvania's anthracite coal belt, was a community in gentle decline but not in decay. Although the town population had decreased over sixty percent between 1890 and 1980, it is remembered fondly by practically all who lived in it -- even though practically all who lived in it have had to leave it. An innocuous fire started in the spring of 1962 in order to convert a town dump into a sanitary landfill went underground, flamed out of hand, was not contained in time, and eventually erased the town from modern maps. What's left now are ten or so dwellers who have been fighting eminent domain evacuation orders for more than ten years, and the empty residential plats and cracked, smoke-spewing thoroughfares of one of America's newest ghost towns and its most unusual post-industrial relic.

The story of how this once-proud community was consumed by the fire from beneath after 25-plus years of abortive containment by complacent government, dithering bureaucrats and a wayward faith in experimental technology is beautifully contained in this book, FIRE UNDERGROUND, by long-time observer and journalist David DeKok. This book has a high "can't-put-it-down" quotient and makes fascinating reading for anyone who's looking for insight into American industrial history, the social history of a Pennsylvania mining town, or a highly cautionary tale of how multiple levels of government, with the best of professed intentions, first overlooked and then undercut any feasible attempt to save the doomed community.

What went wrong? Practically everything. Solutions for containing, abating or snuffing out the mine fire always seemed to be a matter of "too little, too late" despite escalating budgets and a (belated) national focus on the tragedy.
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Who could believe that this fire has been burning since before I was born. (I'm almost 47). Without all the beauracrcy it could have ended when it started if someone would have told the truth, and spent just a little money. Now billions are spent to re-locate what was once a town. A town built and loved by all the people in it. Seems a shame? But thats government.
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I decided recently to do a photo essay on Centralia, and so I wanted to learn as much as I could about the town before starting the project. Mr. DeKok's book was the first I read, and set a very high bar for those that followed. He's covered the story of Centralia since the late 1970s. He lives in the area. This man knows what he's talking about, and backs it all up with facts. It's packed to the gills with information, but reads like a thriller. I couldn't put it down.

I initially borrowed the book from my local library, but after checking it out three times to double-check information and re-read passages, I felt like I was stealing, and so I bought a copy of my own from Amazon. I've since re-read the entire book cover-to-cover in preparation for a return visit.

Anyone with a love for history will appreciate this book, but if you're planning on visiting Centralia, you're doing yourself a disservice if you don't read this. It completely changed how I approached my project, and will no doubt enhance your visit as well.
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I visited Centralia, and then bought a copy of this book. It has fantastic information, and the author does a wonderful job of telling the story in an exciting way. If you want the real story on this tragedy this is the only book you need!
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