A fire inside an abandoned railroad tunnel located in the Tip Top area of southern Magoffin County has created concern and sadness for local residents and natives of the area.
The fire apparently began sometime Sunday morning and was still burning Wednesday with black smoke billowing from the structure and darkening the sky surrounding the tunnel.
Residents and officials were concerned with possible health issues created by the smoke. Magoffin County sheriff Bob Jordan said Wednesday morning he had received smoke-related complaints from residents of the Bee Tree, Carver, and Oakley areas.
An official with the Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality division, along with local emergency management officials and an R.J. Corman representative visited the site Monday.
It was reportedly recommended that the tunnel be sealed off as a method to extinguish the flames, which apparently started in the roof near the tunnel’s mid-section.
Many people have stated their suspicion of arson, but no investigation has been announced for the privately owned structure.
A crew and equipment was scheduled to begin sealing the tunnel Wednesday, according to air quality officials.
The tunnel, built in 1948 for the purpose of removing coal by train from Tip Top mines, has officially been closed for several years and the railroad tracks were removed several years ago.
Although it no longer served as a method of coal transportation, the tunnel remained a symbol of the area’s heritage and was considered a treasured landmark by many.
“I remember as a child playing in that tunnel. I could look at it and so many great memories would come back and now it’s gone,” Tip Top born Mollie King said. “It’s really sad. It may sound stupid, but I’m heartbroken about it.”
King said she wasn’t the only person in and from the area that felt a similar sense of loss and an anger toward what they figure was an intentionally set fire.
“A lot of people are upset,” she said. “Someone had to set the fire and I hope they catch them and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.
“I speak not just for myself, but others as well who have been devastated by this cruel act. I bet my family’s name, as well as other families have signed their names all through that tunnel.”
People from the area, and from throughout Magoffin County, also used the tunnel as a 4-wheeler route, traveled through on horseback, or used it as a place of relaxation and reflection.
“The little community of Tip Top will forever hold a special place in their hearts for thwe Tip Top Tunnel,” King said.