By MIKE PALMER
Times Leader Staff Writer
CADIZ - The Wilberg Mine fire, which claimed the lives of 27 miners on Dec. 19, 1984, was the basis for this year's rescue contest as the The Ohio Department of Natural Resources' (ODNR) Division of Mineral Resources Management (DMRM) held its fifth annual Ohio Mine Safety Competition at the state-of-the-art Jerry L. Stewart Mine Safety Training Center in Cadiz.
T/L Photos Mike Palmer
“We have found an unconscious victim” is the radio message Jarod McPeek of American Energy Corp. Century Team Blue sends as Rodney Enos, Dave Myers and Rich Cochran prepare to assess the condition of “mine fire victim” Mark Hess.
Ronald D. Glasgow, president of Tri-State Post 6, once again designed the mock mine disaster problem for the 13 rescue teams competing in this year's event. For the first time in five years, the mine simulation activity would include a smoke chamber on the outdoor course.
"The rescue team will experience the same zero visibility the rescuers in the coal-mine fire in Utah had to deal with," said Glasgow. "It is important that the teams get down and put hands and knees in the dirt and that is why we designed the course with smoke."
Glasgow explained that in mine disasters like mine explosions and fires, the conditions in the mine are so rough that rescuers have reported being unable to find the bodies of missing miners.
"In the Wilberg fire, the rescuers were very brave to go into a mine facing an active fire, but they went in standing up and reported stumbling over debris on their way into the mine," Glasgow explained. "It was not until later when the smoke had been cleared that they realized that they had bypassed victims and had actually been stumbling over six bodies of their fellow miners laying on the ground."
The smoke tunnels dimensions were designed to get crews crawling into the 46 foot long, six foot wide space with a ceiling of just 48 inches.
"With a 12 inch backpack it will be a different experience for miners used to high coal," said Glasgow, stating that the rescue teams would have to complete several tasks while searching in the smoke including extinguishing a fire and recovering a body. "They will have to get their faces six inches off the ground to find and read the problems."
"The teams will also have to properly air lock the mine during the rescue or they blow it up," added Glasgow.
"We are very proud of our mine rescue teams here in Ohio," said Lanny E. Erdos, Chief of ODNR Mineral Resources Management on hand for the competition. "It had been 13 years since an Ohio team had won the Post 6 regional mine safety competition, and this year the team from Ohio Valley Coal Company's Powhatan No. 6 mine, located in Alledonia, ranked first place out of 33 teams representing mine sites in four states."
"We have 11 teams from Ohio and two teams from Rosebud's Pennsylvania mines competing in the state competition here today," Erdos added. "We allow the two teams from Pennsylvania because Rosebud has such a big presence in the state of Ohio."
"We had a few of these teams experience a smoke exercise at the national competition in Columbus last year, but for most of them, this will be a new experience," Erdos explained. "This is the first time we have had it here at the state competition and it seems to be working very well."
"We feel this is an important part of the training for rescue teams. Mine safety competitions help develop and test the skills of mine rescue teams by using simulated mine emergency conditions," Erdos stated. "These guys take it seriously and take great pride in what they do."
Craig Corder, Mine Safety Program Administrator, reported that this year's champion was American Energy Corporation Century Team Red from the Beallsville mine. The six-man rescue team and victim were awarded their trophy in a ceremony following the competition inside the mine safety training center. Second place in this year's competition was Hopedale Mining and third place went to Ohio Valley Coal Company's Powhatan No. 6 mine.
The American Energy Corporation Century Team Red's Jason Domon also won the bench competition sweeping the day for the Beallsville crew. The trophies in the bench competition followed suit with Mike Doane of Hopedale Mining taking second and Jonathan Moser of Ohio Valley Coal Company's Powhatan No. 6 mine earning third place.
Palmer can be reached at email@example.com