Thread: Coal Seam Fires

  1. #1
    Sr. Information Officer
    NJFFSA16's Avatar
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    Aug 2001
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    Question Coal Seam Fires

    Anyone ever deal with this type of fire?

    SHERIDAN, Wyo. (AP) - Firefighters are attempting to control an
    underground coal seam fire that federal mining officials have
    determined is an immediate threat to human health and safety.
    The fire might jeopardize a proposed public-private land swap.
    Crews are working to force sand into cracks above the Welch
    Ranch fire, which has been burning since at least 1999, when
    Pittsburg and Midway Coal Mining Co. bought the property from the
    Drummond Co.
    "We are currently hauling in sand and water," said Evan Green,
    administrator for the state Abandoned Mine Lands Division office in
    Cheyenne. "The water will be used under pressure to slurry the
    sand into the surface cracks and fissures above the fire."
    "If we're really lucky, it might smother the fire," he said.
    "More likely is that it will merely temporarily retard the fire
    and limit the surface manifestations."
    A 1980 U.S. Geological Survey report stated that early
    underground mining caused several coal seam fires in the area of
    the Welch Ranch fire, but a contract engineering firm for the
    Abandoned Mine Lands, or AML, office has determined that the fire
    cannot be pinned on mining activities, Green said.
    "That means that AML can spend money only to mitigate the
    immediate emergency, which is what we are doing," he said.
    The BLM is examining public comments on a draft environmental
    impact statement prepared for the proposed land exchange, which
    would involve swapping federal coal reserves in northern Sheridan
    County to Pittsburg & Midway.
    The deal would net the company about 107 million tons of coal on
    2,045 acres.
    Pittsburg & Midway would give up the Welch Ranch, which is a
    piece of wildlife-rich land along the Tongue River, along with
    several inholdings in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Lincoln
    County and a small ranch in Carbon County.
    In Sheridan County, the BLM would receive 1,600 acres of surface
    real estate and 800 underground coal acres, but the agency not yet
    determined if it will accept the smoldering piece of property or
    how it will manage it.
    In Lincoln County, the federal government would receive 3,086
    acres, including 2,453 for the U.S. Forest Service and 633 acres
    for the BLM.
    In Carbon County, the BLM would receive 1,236 acres known as the
    JO Ranch lands.
    Sheridan County resident Frank Mommsen has protested the
    exchange, saying the public would be saddled with responsibility
    for managing the Welch Ranch fire.
    Of the AML's current firefighting effort, he said, "The whole
    thing appears to be a Band-Aid for the coal and land exchange with
    the BLM."
    Mommsen and 60 other area residents have signed a petition
    expressing concern over poisonous gases, ground collapses and other
    safety issues related to the fire.
    Rodney Gaines, projects and environmental manager for Pittsburg
    & Midway, said he believes there is no danger.
    "What's out there is cracks in the surface, and that's not
    different than what's out there all across the West," he said last
    week from his Denver, Colo., office.

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  2. #2
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    I grew up in western Maryland which was a very active mining area in the late 1800's to the 1940's or so when mines were dug into the slopes of the mountains. The coal seams weren't real deep so open pit or strip mining became more economical after the second world war. Anyway, one of the old underground mines caught fire and burned for around 50 years underground. What finally stopped the fire was the construction of I-68 when a roadway cut removed the burning coal seam. Even after this steam vented from the side of the highway cut for years. I don't recall that the fire created any particular environmental hazards. The acid mine drainage problem that occured with all these old mines was the environmental headache that had to be dealt with.

    I seriously doubt that the fire in the article will be extinguished by the proposed sand and water slurry method. From what I've been told by old time miners and people from the Maryland Bureau of Mines, once these fires get going in a coal seam, they generate enough heat to be self sustaining and the only way to stop them is to dig out the coal seam. I wish them luck.
    Last edited by CJMinick390; 09-16-2002 at 09:51 AM.
    Chris Minick, P.E., Firefighter II
    Structures Specialist, MD-TF 1

    These statements are mine and mine alone
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