|The following is based on Van Buren and has not been confirmed by canon sources.|
The river of blood, within which boiling is
Whoe'er by violence doth injure others.
O blind cupidity, O wrath insane,
That spurs us onward so in our short life,
And in the eternal then so badly steeps us!”— Dante Alighieri, Inferno
(Canto XII, The Violent Against Neighbors)
Burham Springs or Burning Springs, as it is called nowadays, is a place somewhere in the American Southwest.
Burham Springs is the wreckage of a pre-War mining community that has been burning for decades. Only a tiny handful of people continue to linger in the dreadful place. The constant threat of death by fire, smoke, radiation, and horrible monstrosities keeps the rest of the world away. The smoldering coal mines contain a wealth of technology, but the risk is too great for most people to bother.
With more important things to spend their money on, Poseidon Energy closes the inefficient and dangerous Eagle's Rock mine complex and sells it to the U.S. government.
Government decision-makers order the dumping of radioactive waste into Eagle Rock's lower mines. Enclave politicians help secure a contract for Poseidon Energy to develop and use their mining robots in the operation of the dumping ground. Not surprisingly, the Agricola lab turns out to be a pretty good bunker as well.
Bombs drop. Two Poseidon scientists are still trapped in the lab. After four years, one dies of natural illness. After one more year, the other commits suicide.
NCR explorers discover Eagle Rock and quickly realize that it is a source of energy and some water—albeit a dangerous source. Within the year, NCR miners are there, and more come shortly thereafter. Many of them are dregs/outcasts from other communities.
NCR halts production on the railroad lines. The need for coal diminishes and the Powder Gangs rise up.
NCR 5th Engineering Division blows up Burham Mines, causing incredible fires to break out all over the area, even in veins of coal encased in rock. Many die. Many become Gehennas. NCR abandons Burham Springs.
Twelve daring people, including Phil, Sparky, and Frank LaFrancis, drift into Burham Springs to start salvaging. Two years after the end of this influx, all are dead except Phil, Sparky, and Frank.