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

37 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0762754274
ISBN-10: 0762754273
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Fire Underground: The Ongoing Tragedy Of The Centralia Mine Fire + Centralia  (PA)  (Images of America) + TOWN THAT WAS, THE
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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: 8.9 x 5.9 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #205,123 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Pennyln on November 24, 2009
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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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Shelly Ward on November 5, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Glenn R. Boston on February 27, 2010
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. Dombeck on March 14, 2010
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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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Allen Smalling TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 18, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Pamela Wright on July 11, 2010
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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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Carrie on June 4, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I should start this review by saying that this is among the most well-researched books I have ever read. This book is clearly the result of years of hard labor on the author's part. Unfortunately, that doesn't translate into a gripping read.

I am a huge fan of historical non-fiction, and while the topic of this book is interesting, it is not a book for someone who prefers his or her non-fiction to read like a thriller. I think this book is a required read for residents of Centralia and the surrounding areas, people with a technical interest in mining, and anyone who works for a government agency. It is probably one of the most horrifying (but unfortunately true) tales of government buck-passing, pissing matches, red tape, and disregard for working class people I've ever read.

All that being said, the book is not a fast-paced read. It moves slowly, gets bogged down in technical detail about the mine fire and the various attempts to contain it, and becomes a confused mass of government employees, politicians, and Centralia citizens. I would not recommend this book for the casual historical non-fiction enthusiast, but it does have great value for people looking to read about the devastating effects of government inaction.
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