Pennsylvania Crews Battle Coal Mine Fire

March 14, 2013
About 121 underground employees were evacuated from a mine shaft after smoke was seen coming from the Green County facility.

March 14--Crews pumped more than 250,000 gallons of water into CONSOL Energy's Blacksville No. 2 mine Wednesday in an effort to put out a fire that evacuated the mine a day earlier.

About 121 underground employees safely left the mine Tuesday afternoon after smoke was seen coming from the mine's Orndoff shaft, in Greene County, Pa., CONSOL spokeswoman Lynn Seay said.

No employees will re-enter the mine until it is safe to do so, Seay said.

Seay said CONSOL is working closely with federal and state mine authorities to implement an "aggressive plan" to contain and extinguish the blaze.

A general location of the fire was identified late Tuesday, but mine rescue workers couldn't go further inside due to heavy smoke and heat, officials said. By midnight Tuesday, an existing borehole at the Orndoff shaft was opened and crews began pumping water into the mine.

About 250,000 gallons had been pumped in by late afternoon We d n e s d ay.

The water is expected to create a seal and cut off oxygen to the fire, said Amy Louviere, federal Mine Safety and Health Administration spokeswoman.

As of 2:20 p.m., the first bore- hole had been drilled down about 157 feet, near where the fire is believed to be located, she said. The drill rate is 87 feet per hour.

Drilling of the No. 2 hole begin outby (downwind) of the suspected fire area in the afternoon. This is a monitoring borehole, to determine the fire atmosphere. A third hole was to be drilled about 300 feet from the first one.

CONSOL was installing an 8-inch line to a 1,000 gallon-per-minute pump, Louviere said. That work was expected to be complete by the time the first hole intersects the mine.

Nitrogen was still being injected into the sealed area as of Wednesday evening.

Louviere said the plans are to drill four boreholes, each between 1,000 and 1,200 feet deep. A camera will be dropped down one of the holes to determine the extent of the fire.

Seay said they will remain on-site around the clock and will continually monitor the mine's carbon monoxide and methane levels.

This mine employs about 650 miners, is represented by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), and produced about 3.2 million tons of coal in 2012, Louviere said.

UMWA District 31 vice president Mike Caputo, also a state delegate from Marion County, said union officials are assisting in the effort, and hope they can get the fire out quickly and safely and get workers back on the job.

Caputo said fires of this scale happen, but are not common. Union employees aren't being paid while they aren't working, Caputo said. He said he didn't know if salaried workers would be paid or not.

Seay did not respond to questions about pay during the shutdown in time for this report.

Copyright 2013 - The Dominion Post, Morgantown, W.Va.

Voice Your Opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Firehouse, create an account today!