In 1962, a trash fire ignites a seam of anthracite coal beneath the once-thriving mining town of Centralia, Pennsylvania. The fire continued to rage unchecked into the mid-1980s: giant plumes of smoke and deadly carbon monoxide gases billowed from fissures in the ground, the local highway cracked and collapsed, trees were bleached white and petrified. It wasn't until a young boy nearly died after falling into a smoldering mine that the government was pressed into action. After estimating the cost of extinguishing the fire at over a half a billion dollars, the government opted to raze the town and relocate its residents. Today, eleven die-hards remain. Filmed over a period of five years with interviews ranging from former citizens to Congressmen, THE TOWN THAT WAS is an intimate portrait of one Centralian's quixotic fight for a town that has literally disintegrated under his feet. His unbowed determination and steadfast refusal to acknowledge defeat reveal a region and a way of life that has been almost forgotten.