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Unquenchable

There is a place in the United States that is a near-ghost town. What once was a bustling mining community of over 2,000 had dwindled to 5 residents by 2020. But why? For that answer we need to go back to the 1700’s.


Many of the Native American tribes in that area sold the land to colonial agents in 1749 for £500 (or about $565).


In 1770, during the construction of the Reading Road, settlers surveyed and explored the land. A large portion of the Reading Road was developed later as Route 61, the main highway east into and south out of this location.


In 1793, Robert Morris, a hero of the Revolutionary War and a signatory of the Declaration of Independence, acquired a third of its valley land. When he declared bankruptcy in 1798, the land was surrendered to the Bank of the United States.


A French sea captain named Stephen Girard purchased Morris' lands for $30,000, including 68 tracts east of Morris'. He had learned that there was anthracite coal in the region.


In 1832, Johnathan Faust opened the Bull's Head Tavern in what was called Roaring Creek Township; this gave the town its first name, Bull's Head.


In 1842, the land was bought by the Locust Mountain Coal and Iron Company. Alexander Rae, a mining engineer, moved his family in and began planning a village, laying out streets and lots for development. Rae named the town Centreville, but in 1865 changed it because the U.S. Post Office already had a Centreville in Schuylkill County.


The Mine Run Railroad was built in 1854 to transport coal out of the valley.


According to numbers of Federal census records, the town reached its maximum population of 2,761 in 1890. At its peak, it had seven churches, five hotels, 27 saloons, two theaters, a bank, a post office, and 14 general and grocery stores.


And here is where it gets interesting. May 27, 1962.


The town’s firefighters, as they had in the past, set the dump on fire and let it burn for some time. Unlike in previous years, however, the fire was not fully extinguished. An unsealed opening in the pit allowed the fire to enter the labyrinth of abandoned coal mines beneath the town. However, it was not until 1979, that locals became aware of the scale of the problem.


A gas-station owner, then-mayor John Coddington, inserted a dipstick into one of his underground tanks to check the fuel level. When he withdrew it, it seemed hot. He lowered a thermometer into the tank on a string and was shocked to discover that the temperature of the gasoline in the tank was 172 °F .


Statewide attention to the fire began to increase, culminating on February 14, 1981, when a 12-year-old resident named Todd Domboski fell into a sinkhole, 4 feet wide by 150 feet deep, that suddenly opened beneath his feet in a backyard. His cousin, 14-year-old Eric Wolfgang, pulled the boy out of the hole and saved his life. (Todd had been able to grab tree roots to stop his fall) The plume of hot steam billowing from the hole was tested and found to contain a lethal level of carbon monoxide.


Now get this. Although there was physical, visible evidence of the fire, residents were bitterly divided over whether or not the fire posed a direct threat to the town.


Should they stay or should they go?


In 1983, the U.S. Congress allocated more than $42 million for relocation efforts. Nearly all the residents accepted the government's buyout offers. More than 1,000 people moved out of the town and 500 structures were demolished. By 1990, the census recorded 63 remaining residents.


In 1992, Pennsylvania governor Bob Casey invoked eminent domain on all property in the borough, condemning all the buildings within.


In 2002, the U.S. Postal Service discontinued Centralia's ZIP code and only 16 homes were still standing by 2006; that was reduced to eleven by 2009 when Governor Ed Rendell began the formal eviction of the remaining Centralia residents. Only five homes remained by 2010. (Source: wikipedia.com)


Centralia, Pennsylvania.


I found this most interesting story in a documentary hosted and narrated by William Shatner.


One of the men being interviewed said, “it's basically hell on Earth”. He then called it “an unquenchable fire”.


Well, you know where my mind went immediately. The Bible talks a bit about unquenchable fire. Many have interpreted that to mean the fire will never go out. But that is not what the Bible is saying.


If I could change the mind, thinking, belief, understanding of anyone on any given subject, it would be this one. If I could show you, from the Bible, that our Loving, Creator God is not going to punish the wicked forever and ever in a burning hell, wouldn’t that be of great comfort to you? I know it is for me.

As earthly parents we would not punish our child repeatedly for something they did wrong. Can you imagine forcing your young child’s hand onto a hot stove because they misbehaved; lied; cheated; kicked the cat; whatever? And then doing it every day, day after day, month after month, year after year??


That is so far beyond what any loving parent would do and yet we have put that scenario on our God. How can anyone believe that our Heavenly Abba would be so cruel? If God is love and God cannot lie, then the burning hell for eternity setting is bunk.


Yes, there will be a consuming fire. Yes, those who did not accept the gift of salvation will burn. Satan and his angels will burn. But all will be destroyed. The result is forever, the action is not.


Unquenchable fire cannot be put out. However, when it has burned everything up, it goes out. For example, (Jeremiah 17:27) warns that if God’s people were not faithful, He would kindle a fire in Jerusalem that “shall not be quenched.” And the Scriptures declare that this prophecy has already been fulfilled. “They burnt the house of God, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire. … To fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah.” (2 Chronicles 36:19, 21). That fire could not be put out until it had consumed everything; then it went out. It is not burning today, even though the Bible calls it “unquenchable.”


The fires of hell will, indeed, go out “There shall not be a coal to warm at, nor fire to sit before it.” (Isaiah 47:14).


After sin, sinners, and everything on earth is destroyed, the fire will go out. It will not burn throughout the ages. An eternal hell of torment would make it impossible to ever get rid of sin. God’s plan is to isolate sin and destroy it, not perpetuate it. Revelation 21:5 says, “Behold, I make all things new.”


“Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, … are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” (Jude 1:7). We can see in this verse that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed with everlasting fire as an example of hell, but those cities are not still burning. They were turned into ashes (2 Peter 2:6), which is what eternal fire does. It is eternal in its consequences.” (Source: bibleask.org)


Some people estimate 200 years before the fire in Centralia goes out. Others have said 500 to 600 years. There is no way of knowing. But the point is, it will go out someday. It will burn as long as it has fuel, right now it is unquenchable. This fire has been burning beneath ground since 1962.


by Jeanette Stark – Thursday, October 20, 2022

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