As already mentioned in a previous article, there are eight to ten regions on earth where significant coal and peat fires can be found. Here are the top 5 most dangerous coal fires hotspots in the world.
This ranking is based on the size, potential expansion and related damages and hazards amplitude attached to the fires of a considered country. The most important fires that are currently burning or smoldering in each country are also detailed.
China has the largest coal fires in the world spread on the largest region. Coal fires in China spread in the entire coal belt, covering a zone measuring 5,000 kilometers from east to west and 750 kilometers from north to south, in the northern part of the country.
For further details, refer to China: Number 1 Coal Fire Hotspot
Jahria, North West India
- Cause: Unplanned and Illegal mining activities allowed oxygen to enter the former drifts and galleries
- Starting date: 1911
- Amplitude: 60 to 70 fires on a 700 km2 area. Massive sink holes and subsidence phenomenon are reported damaging infrastructures and buildings, changing fertile zones in barren land.
- Comment: In Jahria, 200 kilometers from Kolkata, coal fires are generating a permanent toxic fog that blocks 15% of the sun light for its 400,000 inhabitants. So far it has also destroyed 40 million tons of coal, releasing pointlessly the corresponding carbon dioxide volume into the atmosphere. This coal fire is a specifically dangerous and worrying one, because of the high density of population in its immediate surroundings.
East Kalimantan Province
- Cause: Human and natural causes
- Starting date: Local people say that coal seams have been burning there “since the memory of man”. The most significant fires were ignited by a wildfire in 1982 and are still burning.
- Amplitude: 150 coal seams are burning and more than 500,000 hectares of peat
- Comment: Situation tends to get worse and to go out of control. East Kalimantan has major coal resources (25 percent of all coal deposits in Indonesia). Yearly clearing of vegetation by burning in preparation for the next planting cycle contributes to ignite new coal seams or peat deposits.
#4 United States of America
Town of Centralia, Pennsylvania
- Cause: Burning waste in a landfill ignited a coal seam
- Starting date: 1962
- Amplitude: 160-200 hectares
- Comment: After different attempt to control the fire failed, most of the 2,000 Centralia’s residents were relocated.Centralia is now a ghost town and the fire officially out of control. Poisonous carbon monoxide smoke permanently covers the area and high mercury concentration has been detected.
- Cause: Dumping garbage in abandoned coal stripping craters
- Starting date: 1940
- Amplitude: 15 hectares (evaluation)
- Comment: 600 relocated families, and 14,000 more residents might be impacted by the fire
Glenwood Springs, Colorado
- Cause: Auto combustion of a coal seam at South Cañon Mine
- Starting date: 1910
- Amplitude: Unknown
- Comment: This coal fire caused a large scale wildfire in 2002. 2000 residents have been evacuated and the Interstate highway has been closed for 30 miles (48 km) in both directions for several days. 29 houses and 1 commercial building have been destroyed. This kind of events could be repeated at any time due to the permanent extension of this smoldering coal fire.
Burning Hill, New South Wales, Australia
- Cause: Natural combustion of a coal seam
- Starting date: Probably about 6,000 years ago
- Amplitude: The fire is moving at a rate of about one meter per year and covers a 6,5 km long area
- Comment: The age of the fire has been evaluated to be 6,000 years, assuming the coal has always been burning at a comparable rate. It is said to be the oldest known coal fire.