50 Years?! Centralia Fire Litigation Settles

“Never, never, never give up,” said Winston Churchill, and here is  a case in point to support him.

We don’t know if this is a record, but it appears that the litigation against the state, including the eminent domain taking of land under which the notorious Centralia, Pennsylvania, underground coal fire has been burning since 1962, and has been the subject of an eminent domain action, has been settled.

The reason for the taking was to evacuate and  protect the inhabitants of the surface of land above the underground fire from noxious gases rising from it. Some 1000 people were relocated and 500 structures demolished. But several homeowners refused to move and the State of Pennsylvania filed a condemnation action against them. For some reason, the state allowed the holdouts to remain in possession for decades. After a long standoff, the state demanded possession and the holdout owners responded with a federal court lawsuit of their own, evidently claiming that the condemnation was pretextual — a way of trying to snooker them out of their valuable mineral rights, which the state denied.

Long story short (and we do mean long) the case has just settled for $218,000 for the holdouts’ homes and another $131,500 for “additional claims raised in the [federal] lawsuit” not otherwise identified in the AP story. The settlement also leaves the homeowners with a life estate in their homes — they will be able to continue occupying their homes for the rest of their lives. Altogether, not a bad deal, and the homeowners justifiably claim victory.

The fire, by the way, is still burning but has evidently gone deeper underground so the owners are willing to take their chances on remaining unaffected by the fumes. We wish them luck. For the full story, click here.