Long-Burning Pennsylvania Mine Fire to Be Extinguished

Plum, PA, November 26, 2001-The State of Pennsylvania plans to excavate four acres of a suburban Pittsburgh park to extinguish a coal-mine fire. Officials thought the fire was out in 1961, however, park workers noticed smoke again about 12 years ago. Officials fear that if it is not extinguished, it will eventually emerge in the vicinity of residential developments.

The fire is burning in an abandoned section of the Plum Creek Mine in the Pittsburgh Coal Seam. It is one of 44 uncontrolled mine fires burning in the state since 1953. Pennsylvania typically allows these fires to burn if they do not threaten populated areas. One example is a fire in Wilkes-Barre, which has been allowed to burn since 1915.

The Pittsburgh park fire has caused little damage so far but, if allowed to keep burning, could create sinkholes by burning the supports holding up the mine’s tunnels.

The extinguishment plan will involve create a trench 1,200-foot-long by 70 feet deep ahead of the fire, to stop its advance, and then to dig out the burning coal. The trench will then be refilled, and new trees will be planted. The project is expected to take about a year.