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Are Fires Actually Good For Forests?
It sounds like something out of a dystopian sci-fi movie: a blazing fire burning underground, with little hope of extinguishing it. It sounds extreme, but there are many instances of such fires all around the world. In Centralia, Pennsylvania, a large garbage dump began smoldering back in 1962. The site is very close to a now-defunct coal mine. The fire eventually grew and spread into the coal mine and has been burning ever since.
These types of underground fires can be found around the world. Some of them occur naturally, like the coal fire that still burns in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. The South Canon Number 1 Coal Mine fire has been burning there for over 100 years. Outside of St. Louis, Missouri, there's a coal fire that's more of a low smolder, burning precariously close to an old nuclear waste facility. As is the case with many of these fires, residents have been evacuated for their safety. Outside the U.S., there are reportedly dozens of such fires in China and India. By and large, such fires are very difficult to extinguish, so authorities tend to evacuate anyone living nearby and keep a watchful eye on the blaze. Exposing these underground blazes to more oxygen could just make them larger and last for a longer period of time.
New Castle's Coal Legacy Smolders Under Burning Mountain (KUNC)
"Coal seam fires have been known to start for a variety of reasons. All you need is concentrated fuel and an ignition source. Because few detailed records were kept during New Castle's coal boom, there's no explanation for the Consolidated Mine's fire."
World's Oldest Fire Has Been Burning for 5,500 Years (DNews)
"Australian Traveler describes it: 'Smell the acrid sulfur. Feel the heat from the roasting 350-degree surface. Watch the pale grey smoke waft into the air. Look for wedge-tailed eagles soaring on the thermal currents above. Imagine you're at the beginning of time. Or perhaps the end.'"