Burning Up The Roads

11 Jun

Here’s an odd item from 1924 about a road that burst into flames.

Mysterious Fire in Paved Roadway Has Been Burning a Year

Fourteen years after a creek bed in Philadelphia, Pa., had been converted into a paved street, a passing autoist noticed a slender curl of smoke rising from a slight crevice in the roadway, thus discovering a fire that probably will shatter all records for novelty and length of activity before it is finally subdued.

This discovery was made last summer. The motorist turned in an alarm, a fire company responded, and has been on duty ever since, establishing what is very likely an endurance record for fire fighting. They will soon complete their first year on the job.

When the road was laid in 1909, from 300 to 400 feet of the foundation was filled with cinders, coke, and other furnace refuse, and the highway laid over all. Fourteen years afterward the pavement was discovered to be a mass of fire. The cause is believed to have been spontaneous combustion. It is thought that several red hot coals from the fill-in material that, in many cases, was dumped direct from power houses, became sealed in a great mass of waste. This bit of fire slowly smoldered and spread until it permeated the entire foundation, finally gaining the air, which fanned the pavement furnace to fresh activity.

Firemen have succeeded in digging a trench in part of the burning mass through which a firehose creates a wall of water night and day, month after month.

The fire probably will be allowed to burn itself out, which, according to estimates, will take about three or four years more.

  1. The item comes from Popular Science magazine, early in 1924.
  2. It makes one wonder if there are other old roads in America, that could be ignited by a suitable source of fire (such as Jonny Storm – the Human Torch from Marvel comics)?
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