Where there’s smoke

…There’s an underground coal fire. This is one of the strangest things I’ve heard, and it’s happening right here in Ohio. I quote from today’s WCLT radio’s news briefs:

Underground Coal Fire In Perry County
Threatening Wayne National Forest

An underground coal fire that was started almost 120 years ago in New Straitsville is slowly working its way under Wayne National Forest.U-S Forest Service archaeologist Ann Cramer says smoke started coming up through cracks in the floor of the 233,000 acre forest last summer. She says it smelled like burning tar.

An estimated 200-square miles of underground mineral deposits have burned since the fire began in 1884. The coal seam is up to 14 feet thick and there’s about 600,000 acres of coal and abandoned mine shafts surrounding New Straitsville, which is about 49 miles southeast of Columbus.

The town’s official history says the fire was set in October 1884 by anti-union workers. They soaked railroad cars that were loaded with timber with oil, ignited them, and rolled them into mine openings.

I didn’t know a fire could burn that long, and no doubt the protesters didn’t either. I guess I never thought about it, but the fire has its two needed sources: fuel and oxygen. But for something to burn like that for over 100 years….Wow. I know the earth spews lava from volcanoes, but this just sounds so weird. I hope some of those idiots got their hands burned.

If you’d like to read more about the fire’s history, pick up a copy of Ohio Oddities: A Guide to the Curious Attractions of the Buckeye State. Lucky for you, though, the story is excerpted at the publisher’s site.

The Wayne National Forest is beautiful, one of our favorite places to visit. We love going to the clean little lake down in that area – Lake Hope. No gasoline-powered boats are allowed on that lake, and it’s so clear you can see your toes when standing shoulder-deep in the swim area. It would be a real shame if this underground fire ignites the forest.

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