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A coal seam fire or mine fire is the underground smouldering of a coal deposit, often in a coal mine. Such fires have economic, social and ecological impacts. They are often started by lightning, grass, or forest fires, and are particularly insidious because they continue to smoulder underground after surface fires have been extinguished, sometimes for many years, before flaring up and restarting forest and brush fires nearby. They propagate in a creeping fashion along mine shafts and cracks in geologic structures. Coal fires are a serious health and safety hazard as well as affecting the environment by releasing toxic fumes, reigniting grass, brush, or forest fires, and causing subsidence of surface infrastructure such as roads, pipelines, electric lines, bridge supports, buildings and homes. Whether started by humans or by natural causes, coal seam fires continue to burn for decades or even centuries until either the fuel source is exhausted, a permanent groundwater table is encountered, the depth of the burn becomes greater than the ground’s capacity to subside and vent, or humans intervene. Because they burn underground, coal seam fires are extremely difficult and costly to extinguish, and are unlikely to be suppressed by rainfall. There are strong similarities between coal fires and peat fires. (via Freebase)