Centralia is a town in Pennsylvania that sits on top of a coal mine that's been on fire for nearly 50 years. It's true, look it up. It was an ordinary coal mining town in Pennsylvania's Anthracite coal region with roughly 1100 residents living there in the 1960s. Only 9 remain today. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is in the process of trying to evict the remaining residents due to the "dangerous gases" that could seep into their homes. The Centralians claim the real reason they're being evicted is so that someone can gain access to the millions of dollars worth of coal under their town. (Apparently the government of Centralia owns the rights to the coal, not the Commonwealth, unlike most of the rest of the state). This raises a few questions: If dangerous gases were really seeping into their homes since the fire started in the 60s, wouldn't they be dead already? Conversely, if the remaining coal can still be mined, why hasn't it been mined by now?
Either way, there is opportunity to make money here. If the Commonwealth is right, and the eviction stands (the residents are asking a judge today in Harrisburg to stop the eviction), there will suddenly be nine people that need to move. And chances are, if they are the kind of people that stubbornly hold onto a house that sits on top of a burning coal mine for 50 years, then they are the kind of people that stubbornly hold onto everything (also known as hoarders). So they will have a lot of stuff to move and will need significant help moving it. This is where you can come in. Rent a large truck, swing into town claiming to be an expert in coal mining town evacuations (if that's not true yet, it will be by the time you're finished) and offer your services, for a small fee of your choosing, to help the townsfolk relocate. You could even give them a "bulk rate". People go for those sorts of things.
However, the preferred option is that the residents are right, and the Commonwealth is only after the rights of the coal. This would mean that someone thinks that the remaining coal is salvageable, and worth enough to use the force of the commonwealth to evict people from their homes to get it. Well, not if you can get to it first. Presumably, there will be a legal battle, and all legal battles take more than a year to resolve, which should give you plenty of time to carry out this plan. First, move to Centralia (real estate is surprisingly affordable there). Then win over your new neighbors (all nine of them) and get elected as mayor. When you become the mayor, you technically become the government of Centralia, which would mean that you own the rights to the coal. Put out the fire* and mine the estimated one billion dollars worth of coal (share some profits with your constituents, they waited a long time for something good to come from the miserable hell they've been living in).
*even though no one's been able to put out the fire for almost 50 years**, I'm going to assume that you'll find a way. But if you can't put out the fire, a burning coal mine is basically the same thing as a coal burning power plant. Use it to start generating electricity and you'll be set for life.
** apparently, one of the remaining 9 residents is Centralia's fire chief. He's only 49, so at no time during his reign as fire chief has there not been a fire in Centralia. Not very good for his resume if he gets evicted.
Thanks to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review for the inspiration for this story.
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