How a tiny mining town in the US started burning 52 years ago and never stopped

The ground beneath Centralia started burning over half a century ago and over time has forced most of the town to leave

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A small mining town in Pennsylvania has been on fire for 52 years, and the reason behind the phenomenon has been explained in a new video.

The ground underneath sleepy Centralia has been burning steadily since 1962, when a coal seam running into a mine shaft set on fire and never went out. 

Though no one is sure how the coal managed to ignite deep underground, the Washington Post reported that experts do fear that it will probably keep burning for another 250 years - when the carbon runs out.

Attempts have been made in the past to put the subterranean blaze out, but to no avail. Flushing the mines with water and trying to starve the seam of oxygen both failed.

Coal burns slowly and evenly, as The American Chemical Society explains in the latest in its Reactions series.

Centralia sits on one of the largest coal reserves in the world, but the once-lively and industrial town is dying out slowly due to sulphurous fumes and sink holes appearing in weakened roads.

In fact, the US postal service has already scratched the town’s zip code from its system, the Washington Post said. Centralia is no longer printed on most modern maps.