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Underground mine fire preparedness - part 1 of 4.

Wiehagen WJ; Fowkes RS; Vaught C; Conti RS; Fotta BA
Holmes Saf Assn Bull 1997 May; :14-19
An analysis of underground fires in United States coal mines was performed. The analysis was based on data from underground mine fires between 1978 and 1992 obtained from records of the Mine Safety and Health Administration and interviews with 214 miners at seven underground coal mines. A total of 164 underground fires resulting in 30 deaths and 43 injuries occurred during the study period. Ten of the injuries and 27 of the fatalities occurred in one fire in 1984. Most fires started with an electrical problem. Other causes were equipment friction, welding or flame combustion, and spontaneous combustion. Conveyors or conveyor drives (causing 33 fires) and various types of rockface equipment (causing 30 fires) were the two major types of mining equipment involved. One hundred and thirty nine fires were detected by personnel who saw or smelled smoke. Air monitoring for combustion gases detected seven fires and mine wide detection systems detected six fires. Seventy four fires resulted in complete evacuation of the mine. Inby workers were evacuated during 24 fires. Forty four fires did not require evacuation. Water was the most commonly used extinguishing agent, followed by dry chemical extinguishers, rock dust, and sealing. Most fires occurred in belt entries, working sections, mined out gob areas, and at shaft or slope bottoms. Interviews with the coal miners revealed that about 70% had at some time during their career fought a mine fire. About 20 to 65% of miners had to evacuate because of a fire; younger, less experienced miners were less likely to have had to evacuate. About 21% of the miners had to wear a filter self rescuer or a self contained self rescuer as a result of a fire. The authors recommend that fire detection sensors be carefully selected and placed, warning and communication protocols be established and tested, a high power water delivery system be developed, and audits of fire preparedness be conducted.
Mine-fires; Coal-mining; Fire-safety; Fire-prevention; Underground-mining; Safety-measures; Mining-equipment; Respiratory-protective-equipment
NIOSH Pittsburgh Research Laboratory, P.O. Box 18070, Pittsburgh, PA 15236
Publication Date
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Journal Article
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NIOSH Division
Source Name
Holmes Safety Association Bulletin
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division