The Hottest Town in America

For nearly 20 years it has been burning—and fuming On the surface, at least, Centralia looks much like dozens of neighboring towns in the hard-coal country of eastern Pennsylvania. A casual traveler topping the hill where Route 61 swings up from the south can take in the entire community at a glance, from St. Ignatius' Catholic church at one end of town, past the wooden row houses and empty storefronts in the center, to onion-domed St. Mary's Russian Orthodox church at the other. But a more careful look reveals something else: acrid-smelling steam coming from the ground. Centralia sits on a...

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