National Mine Rescue Association

Special Reports

Part of the responsibility of the NMRA is to address those issues which are important not only to its members, but also to the entire mining industry.

01. NMRA & Veterans Issues Committee

Mine Fire Brigades | Issue Number 1, May 1994

Issues Committee

Donald Huntley, Chairman, James Banfield, Tom Blaskovich, Gerry Davis, Wayne H. Duerr, John Gallick, Joe Garcia, Ronald Keaton, John G. Kovac, Jeffery H. Kravitz, Joseph Kruetsberger, Richard Macheskey, David L. Mahlke, Don Mitchell, William Parisi, Robert Peluso, Larry Peters, Joseph A. Sbaffoni, Robert Schmidt, William Schlaupitz, Joe Spiker, Carl Trickett, Pete Turcic, Roger Uhazie Jr., Walter Vicinelly

Chairman’s Message
The use of oxygen breathing apparatus to fight mine fires has traditionally been performed by mine rescue teams following well established procedures. During recent years, it has become fairly common for Fire Brigades to be organized at mines. A Fire Brigade is a team of volunteer miners, who are specially trained and equipped to fight underground mine fires. This is a new idea that is gaining favor in the mining industry.

In 1992, the NMRA and Veterans took upon themselves the task of developing practical recommendations for the use of Fire Brigades in mine emergencies, because the work performed and procedures followed by Fire Brigades closely resembles and may infringe upon mine rescue team activities. To accomplish this mission in a timely manner, an Issues Committee was formed. This 1994 Special Report summarizes the findings of the Issues Committee.

The Issues Committee suggests that the NMRA and Veterans accept fire brigades at mines because:

  • Fire brigades are already established at some mines and are not regulated.
  • The fire fighting capability of mines where they are established appears to be much improved.
  • The mining community appears to favor or at least accept the concept with some reservations.
  • Brigade members will be capable fire fighters, who will respond early with personal protection against most hazards that they are likely to encounter.
  • Regulations do not require mine rescue teams to be trained or specially equipped to fight fires.

Today, the situation is that Fire Brigades are neither certified nor regulated. The Issues Committee believes that Fire Brigades should remain the option of industry. The NMRA and Veterans do not have the authority to regulate, but both groups have a responsibility to the industry to evaluate new ideas and suggestions.

The selection and training of Fire Brigade members, as well as the equipment provided and procedures followed varies significantly from mine to mine. Therefore, the Issues Committee developed the following guidelines for selection, training, equipping, and work performance of Fire Brigades. It is important to explain that only Fire Brigades are addressed in this report, but it is not the Committee’s intention to discourage other procedures to insure early extinguishment of fires.

As Chairman, I would like to thank the members of the Issues Committee for their participation and contributions.

Don Huntley, Chairman | May, 1994

Major Issues

Today, Fire Brigades are neither certified nor regulated. Both the NMRA and Veterans believe that Fire Brigades should be an option of the industry.

Part of the responsibility of the NMRA and Veterans is to address those issues which are important not only to its members, but also to the entire mining industry. In September 1992, an Issues Committee was formed, and charged with task of arriving at sincere, sensible and unbiased recommendations regarding Fire Brigades. The Issues Committee met ten times. Diligent effort, research and numerous hours were devoted by dedicated individuals to arrive at various decisions and conclusions that are in the best interest of the entire industry.

The Issues Committee has identified some of the major issues that define guidelines for Fire Brigades. These issues are listed below:

What is a Fire Brigade?

First Responders are on-the-job miners who first encounter a fire underground.

  • A Fire Brigade is the Second Responder to a fire emergency.
  • A Fire Brigade is made up of miners:
  • Who work at the mine.
  • Who are volunteers.
  • Who have been specially equipped and trained to fight mine fires.
  • A Fire Brigade’s job is to fight mine fires.
  • A Fire Brigade is not a Mine Rescue Team.

Fire Fighting

Fire Zone – An area immediately surrounding a fire where there is flame, smoke or hazardous gases. Fire Brigade members can enter the fire zone, only if they are properly trained and equipped.

  • Trained – has received basic fire training.
  • Equipped – NFPA1/ MSHA approved self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and NFPA approved fire fighting clothing (coat and pants or coveralls, protective hood, gloves).
  • Lifeline – The brigade members who enter a fire zone should carry a hose line to act as their lifeline.
  • Back-up – At least two properly trained and equipped brigade members should be stationed outside the fire zone for back-up.

Two or more brigade members can enter the fire zone provided that:

  • Fire Brigade activities should generally be restricted to attacking the fire directly and to limited efforts to prevent its spread.
  • A Fire Brigade can be directed to make ventilation changes that only affect the fire zone, such as, line brattice and check curtains to direct available air to facilitate the direct attack.

Notes: 1. National Fire Protection Association


All Fire Brigade members should pass the mine rescue physical examination or its equivalent. In addition, fitness standards for Fire Brigades should ideally meet those of the NFPA.

A Fire Brigade should be instructed in the operation of all fire fighting equipment and systems that they are expected to use.

  • A Fire Brigade should receive a minimum of sixteen (16) hours of initial fire fighting training.
  • Moreover, a Fire Brigade should receive an additional thirty-two (32) hours of training each year:
  • 8 hours will include the wearing of the SCBA
  • 8 hours will include practice with the fire fighting equipment available at the mine
  • Training should be conducted by a person knowledgeable by reason of education, training and experience in fire fighting.
  • Training should be supplemented by in-mine practice.
  • An operator should keep up-to-date records on his Fire Brigade, regarding membership, current physicals, training and practice.


The operator should have a practical mine emergency management plan for Fire Brigades that answers the following kinds of questions:

  • Who are the First and Second Responders when a mine fire occurs?
  • When will a Fire Brigade be called?
  • What is the chain of command in the event of an emergency?
  • When will a Mine Rescue Team be called?

The management plan should be based on the Mine Emergency Command System1, which is already endorsed by the NMRA.

Operators should consider creating mutual aid agreements for supplementing their Fire Brigades.


1. See “NMRA and Veterans Issue Committee Special Report: Mine Emergency Management,” 1994.


In order to make the best use of a Fire Brigade, an operator should have a program in place that considers these factors:

  • How many fire fighters are available?
  • What is their level of equipment and training?
  • How much hands-on experience do they have?
  • What are the circumstances at the mine?
  • What is the nature and severity of the fire emergency?


National Mine Rescue Association
RR 1, Box 736
Hunker, PA 15639
724-925-5150 X 147

Mine Rescue Veterans of the Pittsburgh District
Box 354
Elmora, PA 15737

National Fire Protection Association
1 Batterymarch Park
P.O. Box 9101
Quincy, MA 02269-9102

Principles of Mine Rescue
The information presented on this page was taken from the Bureau of Mines Instruction Guide 16, “Principles of Mine Rescue” by the Division of Education and Training Services, U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Mines, Health and Safety Activity, Office of Education and Training, November, 1972.

02. Plan of Surface Organization and Procedure In Case of a Mine Fire or Explosion

Prearranged Plan of Surface Organization

Every mine should perfect a firefighting and rescue organization. Practice drills should be held at least twice a year. All underground mining personnel should be familiar with their duties in the case of disaster.

Underground officials should plan in advance the detailed course of action in the event that they and their men are trapped following a fire or other disaster. In addition, workers should be instructed in the use and construction of barricades. They should be familiar with the course of the ventilation of the mine section where they work. Thus, rescue equipment, accessories, and trained personnel should be maintained and available for emergency use.

Paragraph (a) of 30 CFR Section 75.1101-23 provides that the operator shall adopt a program for the instruction of miners in the location and use of fire fighting equipment; the location of escapeways, exits, and routes of travel to the surface; and the proper evacuation procedures to be followed in the event of an emergency. Such program shall be submitted for approval to the District Manager of the Coal Mine Health and Safety District in which the mine is located.

30 CFR Section 57.4-30, concerning underground metal and nonmetallic mines, states “employees should be trained in the use of firefighting equipment.” 30 CFR Section 57.4-31 states “a firefighting organization should be established, equipped, and trained in firefighting and that drills should be held at least twice a year.”

Procedure in Case of Coal Mine Fire or Explosion

Evacuate underground workers immediately. Notify at once and in the order given the following supervisory, administrative, and governmental authorities:

  1. Mine superintendent
  2. Mine foreman (off-shift foreman also)
  3. Safety director
  4. Chief, State Department of Mines
  5. District inspectors (State and Federal)
  6. General manager
  7. General superintendent
  8. District Mining Enforcement and Safety Administration station.

Changes in the order of notification may be made when necessary, depending upon up-to-date regulations governing the mine.

As soon as they are notified, company officials should contact other officials who are responsible to them and should carry out a firefighting and rescue operation according to the prearranged plan.

All personnel assigned to the rescue organization should practice their respective duties by frequent drills and should be capable of performing them efficiently in an emergency.

The Superintendent or other official in charge should…

  • Establish headquarters.
  • Exercise responsible supervision of the rescue and recovery organization and the assignment of duties.
  • Appoint an indoctrinated representative to furnish information for the public and press.
  • Guards should-

Rope off and guard all mine entrances.

  • Obtain assistance of the State police to regulate traffic on roads leading to the mine.
  • The Outside Foreman should-

Set up messrooms and see that ample food and drink are supplied for underground rescue workers.

  • Set up an emergency hospital, rest rooms, and sleeping quarters.
  • The Mine Clerk should-

Attend the telephone at the established headquarters.

  • Assign two men for errand duty.
  • The Supply Clerk should-

Remain at his regular post.

  • Alert other companies to obtain necessary supplies and materials.
  • Provide the following for immediate use: Nails, brattice cloth, hatchets, axes, saws, picks, boards, identification checks, electric cap lamps, flame safety lamps, telephones, wires, electric insulators, CH4 detectors, CO detectors, anemometers, sledge hammers, slate bars, shovels, suitable roof supports, lifting jacks, stretchers, batteries, and first-aid cabinets.
    Provide the following for authorized personnel: Coveralls, safety shoes, gloves, caps, electric cap lamps, flashlights, and lamp belts.
  • Record all equipment issued and returned.

The Electrician should-

  • When authorized by the superintendent, pull and immediately lock all electric switches controlling the electricity entering the mine.
  • Provide the material needed for additional telephone communications.
  • Arrange for relief, and set up a work schedule.
  • The Mechanical Foreman should-

Station an attendant at the fan to keep it running.

  • Instruct an electrician or machinist to make repairs, if necessary, to the fan.
  • The Lamp Man should-

See that each man receiving a lamp is approved by the superintendent or other authorized personnel.

  • Record equipment issued and returned.
  • Give each man a check number.
  • Record each man’s number and name in a book.
  • The Mine Foreman should-

Have the fan inspected.

  • Reverse ventilation only after consulting with all responsible officials present and after personally issuing a written order.
  • Organize underground operations in cooperation with the superintendent and the State and Federal inspectors and provide suitable transportation for men and supplies, as required.
  • The Checkman should-

Attend to his assigned station within the roped off area.

  • Allow no one to enter the mine except persons authorized by the officials in charge.
  • Examine each man carefully for smoking articles and matches, making no exceptions.
  • Check each man out by name and number.
  • Record the time of checking.
  • The Chief Engineer should-

Supply headquarters with copies of maps showing the regular flow of air and the locations of regulators, overcasts, stoppings, doors, pumps, substations, machinery, and the electric system with control switch locations.

  • If needed, obtain maps of adjoining mines.
  • Other Superintendents and Foremen should-

Assemble organizations according to the prearranged plan.

  • Stand by until ordered to assist or leave.
  • The Director of Safety and Inspection should-

Assemble first-aid crews and apparatus men.

  • Assign crews to various shifts.
  • Provide for inspection and servicing of rescue equipment.
  • Assign personnel to record, issue, and return rescue equipment.
  • Consult with the superintendent or other official in charge regarding plans for rescue and recovery operations.
  • An information center should be established to issue information to friends and relatives of the trapped men and to the press and public.
  1. The center should preferably be directed by a local mine or company official or by a State or Federal official and only authentic information should be issued.
  2. All technical information should be issued by an authorized mine official or a representative of the State Department of Mines.

NOTE – It is suggested that someone be placed in charge of friends, relatives, and the press to keep them in a safe location away from the rescue operations and to prevent their receiving information based on speculation that could result in unnecessary grief and erroneous information being released.

03. Procedure Following Mine Fires

Methods of Controlling and Extinguishing Mine Fires

Fighting Mine Fires by Direct Attack

1. Water may be applied by hoses in large streams or fine spray.

A perforated pipe or nozzle connected to a hose may be pushed gradually ahead into the active fire and points beyond the range that ordinary nozzles may be able to reach.

If a great quantity of water is applied to a roaring flame, steam and hydrogen which are expelled may become hazards, because the hydrogen may explode.
Water may be used to cool, but it does not usually extinguish the fire in burning materials that are loaded out and transported from the mine.

2. Chemicals in approved-type extinguishers may be used to control fires.

  • Hand extinguishers may be used.
  • Mounted extinguishers may be used on larger fires.

NOTE – Extinguishers may create dangerous fumes or irrespirable gases, such as carbon dioxide. Necessary precautions must be taken because of the root hazards and methane distillation encountered in fighting fires.

3. Fine limestone or shale dust for rock-dusting bituminous coal mines can be used successfully in fighting fires in the early stages and also for larger fires under some conditions. Rock dust serves to exclude oxygen from the heated area and may also serve to reduce the heat of the burning material. Covering burning material with rock dust does not produce fumes as does the use of chemicals, nor does it produce steam and hydrogen as does the use of water.

Small fires may be controlled by dust applied by hand shovels.

Rock-dusting machines may be used to apply rock dust to fires.

Rock dust may be used to cover burning material as it is transported from the fire area. It is important to watch for spillage of burning material.

4. Fine sand can be used in making a direct attack in essentially the same manner as rock dust. However, sand is heavier than dust and, therefore, more difficult to handle. Because of its use in mine safety operation, rock dust is usually available in sacks of a convenient size for handling, whereas sand would have to be hauled in especially for firefighting.

5. The foam generator is effective in fighting stubborn localized fires that are not accessible to direct attack. Several models of foam generators are available. They are ideal because they can be driven down the entries to mine fires which are otherwise inaccessible.

  • Fires can be attacked from a distance as great as 500 feet into the ventilated passageways.
  • When forced into the heat of a fire, the water in the foam is converted to steam and thus, the oxygen concentration is reduced by dilution of the air.
  • Conversion of the water to steam absorbs heat by reducing the oxygen content of the atmosphere and active burning should cease.
  • The foam wets or smothers all objects which it contacts, thus making it useful only in fighting class A or B fires. Class A fires are fires involving flammable liquids and greases.

Sealing Mine Fires

Temporary Stoppings or Seals

Temporary stoppings or seals generally are constructed of a wooden frame and brattice cloth or canvas because they can be erected quickly and can be made fairly tight. Wood stoppings are not tight unless plastered, which takes considerable time. Temporary stoppings should be set an adequate distance inby the opening. This sealing will allow enough room to erect permanent stoppings outby the temporary stoppings, if feasible. Construction of a temporary stopping should provide sufficient strength and a tight seal.

1. Brattice cloth.

  • Select a suitable point and set a post near each rib, wedging it securely in place.
    Nail a board, at least 1 in. by 6 in., extending from rib to rib across the top. Nail a similar board across the bottom.
  • Cut a piece of brattice cloth large enough to cover the opening and allow a small surplus at the edges.
  • Hold the cloth in place and nail it to the top and bottom boards and, if possible, to the ribs.
  • Shovel fine material along the bottom covering the loose cloth at the floor.

This hasty structure will stop the greatest pressure in the shortest possible time. If time allows, improvements can be made by picking away any loose material at the ribs to straighten them, installing additional posts and crosspieces at the edges and center, and applying additional layers of cloth.

2. If brattice cloth is not available, wood may be used.

  • Select a suitable place and set posts in the opening to be sealed.
  • Dig a shallow hitch in the roof, ribs, and floor in the same plane as the posts, so that the boards may be hitched into them.
  • If available, use tongue and groove boards.
  • Cut the top board long enough to fit onto the hitches at the top of the ribs.
    Place the top board to fit into the hitch across the roof and into the hitches on each rib and then attach it to the posts with nails.
  • Cut each succeeding board long enough to fit into the hitches of each cut.
    Place each succeeding board tongue-in-groove or tightly against the board above it and nail in place. The bottom board must fit into the hitch in the floor and may lap the next board above.
  • Shovel fine material to fill and, perhaps, cover the lap of the bottom board.
    Use mud, plaster, or any available cloth or plastic to caulk cracks where boards have failed to fit smoothly against each – other or the surfaces of the mine.

Permanent Stoppings or Seals

1. Stoppings or seals constructed of brick usually are satisfactory inasmuch as brick withstands crushing about as well as most material. The size of a brick is well adapted to constructing a wall conforming to the shape of an opening. It should be well hitched in the floor, ribs, and roof.

  • Brick stoppings should be from 9 to 13 inches thick.
  • A strong cement mortar should be used.
  • After a brick stopping has been completed, the entire face of the stopping (the roof, ribs, and floor), should be well plastered with cement mortar to prevent air leakage.

2. Cement blocks laid with strong cement mortar may be used to erect permanent seals or stoppings .

  • Cement blocks should be well hitched into the ribs, roof, and floor to insure tightness.
  • Because the blocks may be somewhat porous, the surface of the stopping should be plastered well with cement mortar.

3. Concrete stoppings are durable, unaffected by water, have a high bearing strength, and assist in supporting the roof.

  • Concrete stoppings should be from 6 to 12 inches thick and well hitched into the ribs, roof, and floor.
  • A wooden form is required for pouring and may be removed after the concrete has set.
  • If the bottom is soft or has a tendency to heave, it may be advisable to lay a foundation course of cement blocks.

4. A stopping or seal can be constructed more quickly of tile than of smaller brick.

  • Construction and strength is about the same as cement blocks.
  • The strength of tile blocks may be greatly increased by filling the tiles with cement mortar and allowing it to dry before using.

5. Wood and plaster stoppings have been used successfully.

  • Construct the wood stopping in the manner previously described for a temporary wood stopping, except that all boards are lapped in the same manner as the bottom board, providing support for the plaster adhering to the board above.
  •  Cover the boards completely with a mortar composed of 50 percent mud and 50 percent cement.
  •  To help the mud-cement mortar adhere to the surface of the frame, chicken wire may be nailed as a net covering the frame. The mortar should be pressed into the netting.

6. Several types of pack-wall stoppings have been used successfully.

  • A stiffening wall of solid material is constructed.
  • Depending upon the type of wall used, another wall is constructed from 18 inches to several feet away.
  • As the second wall is being erected, loose material is piled snugly between the two walls and sometimes compacted.
  • Because of its bulk and construction in piles, the pack wall is the most flexible and the strongest type of stopping.

7. Water may be flooded into mines to stop fires.

  • The water cools the material by direct contact.
  • Water can form a seal and exclude air needed by the fire.
  • Flooding may be used in addition to other types of stoppings.

8. A combination of dust and water control is sometimes used to flush mine fires.

  • Stoppings are erected to seal the fire area.
  • Water bearing silt or other fine solids are flushed into the burning area through drill holes or other small openings.
  • After the mixture reaches the fire area and its movement is arrested, the water drains or seeps off, allowing the silt to settle and fill most of the openings, thus halting the burning.

9. Incombustible barriers have been used successfully in several abandoned coal mines to prevent the spread of fire.

  • A tunnel and/or open-cut, which is about 12 to 20 feet wide, is cut through the coalbed from outcrop to outcrop. This is a safe distance from the fire.
  • All combustible material is removed.
  • The opening is completely backfilled with incombustible material, usually clay or a mixture of sand and clay. It is flushed from the surface through drill holes spaced approximately 50 feet apart.

10. Inert gas such as carbon dioxide occasionally may be used to advantage in cooling or extinguishing a mine fire, although the process is expensive.

If effective seals are erected and the fire is airtight, enough inert gases will be produced by the fire and by the consumption of oxygen to extinguish the fire in a short time.

If the fire is not sealed tightly or seals are not erected, it is questionable whether the use of inert gas, such as carbon dioxide, will be effective.

The usual method of using carbon dioxide is to allow it to flow from 100 or 200 cubic-foot cylinders on or over the fire.

Another method is to bore holes into the fire area and introduce the gas through the holes.

Unsealing Mine Fires

Experience and scientific study have shown that no attempts should be made to unseal a mine fire (1) until the oxygen content of the sealed atmosphere is low enough to make explosions impossible, and (2) until the carbon monoxide, the indicator of combustion, has disappeared or nearly so. These conditions are difficult to achieve in many cases.

1. The extent and intensity of the fire at the time of sealing will have a decided bearing upon the reduction of oxygen in the area.

2. The characteristics of burning material and the overlying and underlying strata are factors to be considered.

The character of the burning material; whether it is wood, bituminous coal, or anthracite; the rate of burning; and the change of gas composition may influence rekindling when air is readmitted.

Combustible or incombustible roof material may retain heat for a long time after the smoldering main fire is cooled.

Combustible floor material retains heat and tends to lengthen the period that should elapse before unsealing is attempted.

3. Tight seals are essential for control of oxygen.

  • Barometric pressure affects sealed areas.
  • Excess outside pressure causes air to enter.
  •  Lower pressure outside assists in the escape of the sealed atmosphere (CH4, CO, Cot, etc.).
  • It may be of considerable importance to know the barometric pressure of the sealed area at the time of sealing.

If the temperature outside of the mine is considerably lower than the mine temperature, inward pressure on the fire seals is likely to occur; if higher, outward pressure will occur.

1. As the fire cools, inward pressure results.

2. If the stoppings are hot or warm, the temperature within the sealed region is high.

In a sealed area where the air current passes on two sides, namely the intake and return, a difference in pressure exists that may induce leakage through the stoppings and strata. These leakages could prolong extinguishment of the fire.

When the pressure is outward only, samples of the atmosphere behind stoppings should be taken at least once every 24 hours for the first few days of the fire.

1. Using an aspirator bulb or pump, samples may be collected by vacuum tube, water displacement, and air displacement.

2. After the samples are collected, they must be kept pure and analyzed accurately.

The gases usually found in sealed regions mainly contain methane, hydrogen, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and oxygen.

1. The extent to which oxygen should be reduced under sealed conditions depends upon the relative quantities of combustible gases present.

2. It is desirable that the amount of oxygen be reduced to at least 3 percent and preferably below 1 percent before an attempt is made to unseal.

In addition, the time for unsealing may be determined by local factors such as the proximity of gas wells, the position of boreholes, the extent of the region under seal, and the temperature within the sealed area.

The successful opening of a fire area necessitates certain preparations.

1. Adjustments in ventilation should be made to direct fire gases from the sealed region into the main return.

2. An attendant should be at the mine fan to see that it is correctly operating. If the fan slows down, or other change is noted, the men engaged in the unsealing work must be warned immediately.

3. Electrical power must be cut off from the section of a coal mine in which a fire is sealed before the work of unsealing is undertaken.

4. In bituminous coal mines, all entries and crosscuts leading to and from the fire region should be coated heavily with rock dust for a considerable distance outby the seals that are to be opened.

Methods of Unsealing Mine Fires

When the sealed area is large, the fire extensive, or bodies must be removed, the region is recovered in sections by using air locks and advancing to a point where the bodies can be reached.

1. Air locks consist of two stoppings 10 or 15 feet apart equipped with doors through which crews equipped with oxygen breathing apparatus can enter and take material into the sealed area.

One of two doors of the air lock must be closed at all times.

After an air lock is completed, the crews work through it and erect another air lock at a prearranged distance inby. They can perform other such work as may be required for reventilation of the region between air locks. Temporary air locks should be erected to withstand positive and negative pressures.

2. Air-locking operations should never be undertaken until the oxygen content of the air in the area behind the seals has been reduced to at least 2 percent.

Once a suitable air lock has been erected, proper organization and adequate equipment and materials should have been provided and all other necessary arrangements should have been completed.

3. Recovery teams using oxygen breathing apparatus (one in reserve) should enter the air lock and remove the seal.

4. The first crew should return to the air lock and allow a second crew to inspect the area beyond the seal to select a place for the next air lock. They should return with an atmosphere sample.

5. A crew should then proceed with the construction of a second air lock according to the plan and information provided by the reconnaissance crew.

6. As each crew advances into the area beyond an air lock, designated members should sample the atmosphere for oxygen content, combustible gases, and temperature.

When a sealed region is to be recovered by direct ventilation, an air lock should be constructed, preferably near the intake seal.

1. A rescue crew with a communication system and other necessary equipment should break the seal, enter, observe conditions, take temperature readings and air samples, and return to the fresh air base.

2. If inspection of the affected region shows that conditions are favorable, the return seal should be broken by an apparatus crew.

3. The air lock should then be opened to admit air.

4. The area should be ventilated and, if possible, the combustible gases in the main return should be kept below the lowest explosive limit.

04. Recovery Procedure Following a Mine Explosion

Examination of Mine Openings

Before exploring is begun, a preliminary examination should be made of all openings and escapeways because men overcome by afterdamp may be found near openings. Tests for methane, carbon monoxide, and smoke can aid in determining the order in which the openings should be explored.

Establishing Ventilation

If the ventilation fan has not been destroyed or damaged, it should be kept running.

Entering Mine and Establishing Fresh Air Base

When the necessary organization has been formed, equipment and materials assembled, and ventilation established, exploration of the mine should be started. Continual checking of return air for mine gases and smoke is necessary.

Establishing Telephone Communication

As recovery work progresses, the telephone system should be extended to stay abreast of rescue efforts. Additional telephones should be installed so that a telephone will always be available to the advance crews. Ordinary telephones should not be installed or left where they are likely to come in contact with explosive gas. In such areas, only permissible telephones should be used.

Duties of Rescue and Recovery Crews

Rescue crews should consist of men with gas masks or oxygen breathing apparatus trained and equipped to make explorations, to work in irrespirable air, and to rescue mining personnel.

Rescue crews must work in close cooperation with recovery crews by making explorations ahead of fresh air to reach live men, locate bodies, test the mine air, look for and extinguish small fires, and erect stoppings where respiratory protection is required.

Men wearing heavy breathing apparatus should not transport bodies except in an emergency, and then only for short distances.

Recovery crews are composed of brattice men, men for handling and transporting material, telephone attendants, timbermen, trackmen, and other related personnel. They should not be permitted to go ahead of fresh air, since they may be overcome, or their efficiency may be reduced, by breathing harmful gases.

Explorations Ahead of Fresh Air

After a fresh air base has been established, exploring should be done ahead of fresh air by rescue crews wearing oxygen breathing apparatus.

1. The crews should look for live men, spot fires, locate bodies, and observe conditions.

2. The length of trips from the fresh air base should be determined by local conditions.

3. When oxygen breathing apparatus crews are working ahead of fresh air, another oxygen breathing apparatus crew, equipped with adequately charged apparatus in good condition,should always be held in reserve at the air base.

Before leaving the fresh air base, the exploration crew should be instructed by the man in charge to examine and test the equipment, to go only a certain distance, to examine for specified conditions, to observe specified places, and to return in a specified length of time.

During exploration trips ahead of fresh air, rescue crews should follow previous instructions and consider personal safety at all times.

1. After proceeding about 50 to 100 feet into the area away from the fresh air base, the apparatus of each crewman should again be examined by the team captain to assure satisfactory performance and the ability of each member to continue and perform the required mission.

2. Then, carrying a lifeline for giving signals or a batteryless or permissible battery-type portable telephone and wire, they should proceed slowly in single file about 6 feet apart.

3. They should examine the roof and roadway and make a running record of progress on the surfaces of the mine.

  • They should mark with chalk the direction of travel with arrows pointing to the fresh air base at frequent intervals and at all corners turned.
  • They should mark the name or initials of the crew or crew captain, and the time, day, month, and year on the faces of all rooms, entries, and at the farthest point of their travel in all directions.
  • They should carefully note conditions and report their observations to the man in charge via the communication system being used.

Restoring Ventilation

If an explosion has affected a large area, many temporary stoppings will be required to restore ventilation.

1. Temporary stoppings should be constructed in the manner described.

2. Near mine openings or other places where they will be subjected to considerable pressure, temporary stoppings should be constructed with two to four plies of brattice cloth or plastic material, depending on the size of the stopping and the distance the air must be carried.

3. Temporary stoppings should be set at least 4 to 6 feet inby crosscuts or other openings to leave space for later construction of stronger and tighter stoppings.

4. As soon as possible, semipermanent stoppings of boards or stronger material, or permanent stoppings of brick, cement blocks, tile, or concrete should be erected to replace temporary stoppings.

5. A man should be assigned on each shift to patrol all temporary stoppings and to keep them as airtight as possible.

In ventilating any portion of a mine after an explosion, the afterdamp should be conducted to the outside by the most direct route.

1. For maximum safety currents of air are conducted so that ventilation will always be under the control of the man in charge of the shift and the path the air is traveling will always be definitely known.

2. If possible, all sections, entries, rooms, and other open accessible workings should be cleared of afterdamp as work advances.

3. Line brattice will be required for ventilating faces of entries and rooms or to split the air current in entries when it is necessary.

  • If a brattice is required for a considerable distance, it should be erected by setting posts about 8 to 12 feet apart in the center or on one side of the passageway.
  • A board should be nailed along the top of the posts and the top of the brattice cloth nailed to the board.
  • The bottom of the brattice cloth should be secured by placing a board along the bottom of the posts and nailing the brattice cloth to it or by shoveling loose material to weigh down the surplus cloth at the bottom.
  • If a short-line brattice is required to clean out the face of a working place from the last crosscut to the face of a place, it may be erected quickly by having a number of men hold the brattice in place. This will save the time required to install posts.
  • A roll of brattice cloth long enough to reach the desired distance should be stood on end in the passageway where the outby end of the line brattice is to start.
  • Several feet of the cloth should be unrolled and held upright at the end by one of the men.
  • The other men should advance toward the face while unrolling the cloth on the intake side. Successive men should hold the unrolled portion to the roof at frequent intervals as the roll is advanced, until the ventilating current is directed all the way to the face to clear it of afterdamp.

Dealing with Fires Encountered During Exploration

If fires are found while rescue crews are exploring ahead of fresh air, they should be extinguished with water, rock dust, or fire extinguishers before the fresh air advances to the fire.

If a fire is of such proportions that it cannot be extinguished, it should be sealed promptly and effectively. If smoke and an explosive mixture of gas are encountered and the location of the fire in unknown, it may be advisable to seal the region containing the fire, or the entire mine. In some situations it will be necessary to use air locks to work around the sealed areas in order to continue recovery operations. The individual circumstances will determine the action to be taken.

Rescue and Removal of Live Men

Sometimes live men are found in the open passageways inby the fresh air lock.

1. Usually they are suffering from poisonous or asphyxiating gases, burns, or injuries.

2. Men found to be affected or overcome in an atmosphere containing afterdamp should have oxygen breathing apparatus placed on them and should be carried to fresh air as soon as possible.

As soon as possible after live men are brought to safe air, they should be given additional oxygen to breathe.

1. The oxygen should be administered for at least 30 minutes to remove carbon monoxide from the blood.

2. If rescued men are breathing slowly, or not at all, but show signs of life, artificial respiration should be administered in conjunction with the oxygen.

Occasionally, live men are found behind barricades erected to protect themselves from afterdamp.

1. If fresh air can be advanced to the barricades within a short time, this should be done before the barricade is opened.

2. If fresh air cannot be conducted to the barricade in a reasonbly short time, air not able to sustain life should be excluded from the barricade. This can be accomplished by erecting a tight canvas stopping with a small opening covered with canvas a short distance (about 10 to 15 feet) outby the barricade to allow sufficient room to set a stretcher lengthwise between the stopping and the barricade.

3. After the stopping has been erected, an opening large enough to admit an open stretcher should be made in the barricade and covered immediately with canvas.

After arrangements have been made to exclude the contaminated air from the area in which the men are located, the live men should be rescued.

1. If men found behind a barricade can walk, they should be provided with the necessary apparatus and assisted to fresh air.

2. If they are unable to walk, they should be carried out on a stretcher.

  • Four men from the rescue crew with a stretcher should pass through the stopping, admitting as little air as possible.
  • The men and stretcher should then pass through the barricade, again admitting as little air as possible.
  • Select the man in the most serious condition to be rescued first.
  • When necessary, the man to be rescued should be protected by the necessary breathing equipment.
  • The man should be carefully loaded on the stretcher.
  • The four rescue men should carry the man on the stretcher through the barricade, admitting as little air as possible.
  • The rescue crew should continue carrying the man on the stretcher through the stopping, admitting as little air as possible, and to fresh air by the shortest and quickest route.
  • The routine should be repeated until all live men are removed to fresh air.

Handling Bodies

All bodies found in the mine should be wrapped in brattice cloth or canvas by the recovery crews and transported to the morgue. The company should have provisions for such needs.

1. When the bodies are not recovered for several days, they should be sprayed well with a disinfectant, such as Creolin or Lysol, before being touched, handled, or wrapped. It is suggested that rubber gloves be used.

2. A tag bearing an identifying number and the location where the body was found should be attached to each body.

3. If the location has not been marked previously on the roof or rib, this should be done by the recovery crew.

4. The location, position of the body, and check number or name also should be marked on the mine map.

5. Nothing should be removed from the body while it is in the mine, except in the presence of witnesses when a written record is made of the material removed.

6. Items removed from a body should be given to a designated person to be turned over to the morgue official or relatives of the victim.

The official in charge of the morgue should assign a morgue number to each body received at the morgue.

1. If possible, body identification should be made with the primary source related to the mine check-in and check-out system required by law (75.1715).

2. A record should be made of tags attached to the recovery crew, the check number, clothing, shoes or boots, money, watch or other jewelry found on the body.

3. A description should be recorded including features, color of hair and eyes, height, weight, teeth, old scars or fractures, and probable age of the victim.

4. All articles removed from a victim should be properly wrapped, tagged, and delivered to the coroner or the victim’s relatives.

Setting Timbers

Timber crews should remove dangerous roof and set necessary timbers as soon as possible, as protection for rescue and recovery crews and others who are required to travel roadways, manways, and entries.

Clearing Roadways

Roadways should be cleared of falls and debris. Necessary repairs should be made to the haulage tracks as soon as possible after an explosion. However, if tests indicate explosive gas accumulations, trolley-pole or cable-reel locomotives may not be used because of the hazards of igniting explosive gases. Battery-powered transportation equipment should be used.

Preparation for Resuming Operations

After the inspectors and mine officials have completed their investigations, crews should make any repairs necessary to prepare the mine for safe operation. When all the necessary repairs and changes have been made, the State and Federal mine inspectors will inspect the mine–in order to terminate or modify orders that have, of necessity, been issued–before regular work is resumed.