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That was the routine for many years when coal was the primary heating fuel in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Before people switched to oil or gas or electricity to heat their homes, coal was burned in huge furnaces in most residences. Burning coal left ash residue that had to be lugged out of the cellar and to the curb or the garden, or to provide traction for your snowed-in vehicle.
Decades later, some homes still burn coal for heat. Many municipalities pick up the ashes during regular garbage collection, but some collect the ashes separately. Duryea Borough collects thousands of pounds of ashes per week during the colder months.