New Straitsville Mine Fire
Elizabeth Green, a refugee of the mine fire in New Straitsville, Ohio, ca. 1930.
In 1884, striking miners pushed burning coal cars into a mine owned by the New Straitsville Mining Company, setting the mine ablaze. The fire still burns underground to this day.
The New Straitsville Mining Company established the community of New Straitsville, about fifty miles southeast of Columbus, Ohio, in 1870. The town provided housing for the company's workers. Over the next decade, the town grew quickly, exceeding four thousand people by 1880. Most of the community's inhabitants worked in the New Straitsville Mining Company's coalmines.
In 1884, tensions broke out between the New Straitsville Mining Company's management and its workers over wages. The miners proceeded to strike. After several months, a small group of union members decided to sabotage the mines. They put timbers in coal cars, soaked the wood with oil, set the lumber on fire, and then pushed the cars into the mine. The fire quickly spread to the coal seam underground. Reportedly, the coal seam was fourteen feet across and extended an undetermined distance into the Earth. It purportedly took several days for the fire to be discovered. By that point, it was too late to stop the fire's spread. As a result of the fire, the mine closed.
The New Straitsville mine fire has raged ever since 1884. It is estimated that more than two hundred square miles of coal has burned. During the late 1800s, nearby residents used water from their wells to brew instant coffee because it was so hot from the fire. In 2003, smoke began to emerge from the soil of the Wayne National Forest, 119 years after the fire began.
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