Scorched explores just a few of the 80 or so coal mine fires in Pennsylvania.
With a small crew, a tight film festival deadline and help from one of our partners EPCAMR, we set out in brutal 5-degree weather into the coal regions to document a much larger problem. The Pennsylvania anthracite era is long over, but its scars remain in the form of abandoned mines, acidic discharge from those mines, and fires, both underground and above.
We started in Centralia (a film about mine fires needs to include Centralia, though it’s more of a tourist playground for those who are unaware of its history). We visited the overlooked towns and sites that continue to decay: Shamokin, Laurel Run near Ashley, Carbondale, the Dolph mine in Olyphant and have been changed by these long-term, environmental, and mostly man-made disasters.
There’s no end for most of these fires, most will burn until their fuel runs out and some can be extinguished at great cost. It’s a problem not just for Pennsylvania, but for many states in the US and for regions worldwide, the current knowledge states there’s at least one mine-related fire on every continent except Antarctica.