OLYPHANT, PA — Coal heated up the Lackawanna and Wyoming valleys’ job market decades ago, and today it’s still making the region hot as no fewer than eight underground mine fires are burning from Carbondale to Newport Township.
The issue has not been taken seriously enough by the state Department of Environmental Protection, according to Rep. Kevin Haggerty, D-Dunmore, and officials in Olyphant, where one of the fires has been burning for nearly a decade.
During a public meeting Haggerty organized in Olyphant on Thursday, he said he has written a letter to Gov. Tom Corbett urging him to declare Luzerne and Lackawanna counties “disaster areas” so federal and state funding could be freed up to help extinguish the fires.
Three of those fires, all in Luzerne County, are designated as serious by the state Department of Environmental Protection, meaning occupied structures are less than 1,000 feet away. The other five are classified as moderate, meaning occupied structures are at least 1,000 feet away.