In 1962, a seam of anthracite coal started burning beneath Centralia, Pennsylvania, a once-bustling mining town with over 1600 people.
By the mid 80’s, clouds of toxic chemicals and deadly carbon monoxide gasses spewed out from fissures in the ground, roads cracked and collapsed, trees were bleached white, and the slow burning mine fire continued to rage unchecked.
But when a young boy fell into a smoldering mine subsidence and almost died, the government was forced to act.
When the cost of extinguishing the fire was estimated at half a billion dollars, the government chose to raze the town and relocate its residents.
Today, 11 die-hards remain.
Filmed over five years, The Town That Was interviews tells the story of John Lokitis and his extravagant fight to save the ghost town that has deteriorated beneath his feet. His determination and staunch refusal to acknowledge defeat reveal a man, a town and a way of life abandoned and forgotten.