- The Washington Times - Monday, November 26, 2001

PLUM, Pa. (AP) The state plans to dig up four acres of a suburban Pittsburgh park to put out an underground coal mine fire that has been burning for decades.
The remedy will destroy trees, trails and picnic shelters at the 1,100-acre Boyce Park, but state officials fear the fire could cause more damage if left to burn.
"Here is a fire burning near picnic pavilions, near parking lots," said Steve Jones, a supervising geologist with the state Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation. "If it burned through the park, it would emerge in the vicinity of some housing developments. Clearly, we don't want that."
Officials don't know how the fire started. It was thought to have been extinguished in 1961, but workers in the park noticed smoke about 12 years ago.
The fire is burning in the Pittsburgh Coal Seam in an abandoned section of the Plum Creek Mine. In 1953, there were 44 such uncontrolled mine fires in Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh.
Five fires remain, and the Boyce Park fire ranks as the bureau's highest priority. The state generally won't put out such fires in rural and unpopulated areas.
A fire outside Wilkes-Barre has been left to burn since 1915.
So far, the Boyce Park fire has caused little damage, killing some trees by burning their roots.
But if it continues, it could spread and create sinkholes by burning the supports that hold up the abandoned mine tunnels. Carbon monoxide from the fire could pose a health risk.
Excavators will dig a 1,200-foot-long, 70-foot-deep trench ahead of the fire to stop its advance and then dig out the burning coal. The trench then will be refilled and new trees planted.


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