CENTRALIA - The seven remaining property owners in Centralia can remain there as long as they are alive, according to terms of a settlement filed Tuesday in U.S. Middle District Court in Williamsport.

The Patriot-News reported Wednesday that all the owners have signed quit claim deeds that will be filed in the Columbia County recorder's office. The deeds include confirmation that the current owners have a life estate in the property until they die, the paper reported, citing Department of Community and Economic Development spokesman Steve Kratz.

The seven will receive a total of $218,000 for their properties in the borough known worldwide as the site of an underground mine fire, he said.

The owners have been fighting condemnation proceedings begun in 1993. Others from the borough of about 1,000 either accepted voluntary buyouts or resolved condemnation proceedings without going to court after the government first ordered residents to move in 1983. The mine fire originated in 1962 in a refuse dump in an abandoned strip mine in Conyngham Township and spread to an underground coal vein under the borough.

As part of the settlement, the residents have agreed to drop their opposition, but will be permitted to remain in their homes until they die, according to The Patriot-News.

The seven remaining residents had filed a federal lawsuit against the Columbia County Redevelopment Authority, DCED and others, arguing the mine fire posed no threat to their health and that forcing them to move was being used as a pretext to allow access to coal.