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Mine Disasters in
the United States

Union Collieries Company
Kathleen Mine Fire

Dowell, Illinois
February 23, 1921
No. Killed - 7

See also:   Kathleen Mine Fire, Aug. 1, 1936

From the Google News Archives:  External Link
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7 Die in Dowell Mine Disaster
Daily Free Press, Carbondale, Illinois
February 24, 1921

Seven med died entombed in the Kathleen mine at Dowell yesterday afternoon when the mine caught fire.

Hundreds of other miners escaped at the discovery of the conflagration.  The seven who lost their lives were in the entry about a mile from the shaft and were trapped between the fire and the shaft.

The victims are:
  • Jake Valerius, 26, Dowell
  • James Chairs, 32, Dowell
  • Adam ______, Christopher
  • Don Smith, 40, Dowell
  • Elmer Fitzpatrick, 26, Zeigler
  • Ed O'Brien, Dowell
  • Tom Waughs, Dowell
Rescuers with mine firefighting equipment were rushed to the scene from Benton, DuQuoin and Royalton.  They fought in vain the desperately spreading fire for hours and were finally forced to seal up the shafts to get the fire under control and to put it out.  All attempts with chemicals and other firefighting apparatus were of no avail.  Firemen were unable to get within a hundred feet of the blaze in the entry, spreading and emitting deadly gases.

Several of the fighters and others working to get the fire under control and attempting to rescue the dying and entombed miners, suffered gas attacks and were carried from the scene on stretchers.

Little hope for the rescue of the men was seen at the outset.  The fire burned rapidly with indications of its spreading throughout the mine.

Shortly after the fire started at noon yesterday when the miners gained access to the shaft through which they escaped with their lives, firefighting equipment was on the scene and rescuers were at work.  But the entombed fire surged within the mine.

After four hours of attempt to rescue alive the doomed men and efforts to extinguish the fire there was nothing left to do except to seal the mine, the shaft, the air shaft and the entry in which the fire started.

The men who lost their lives were working in an entry about 3,000 feet from the shaft.  The fire started in the northwest entry about 600 feet between the men and the shaft out of the mine, trapping the miners from all means of escape, the blaze between them and the shaft.

The cause of the fire is said to have resulted from a short circuit in the electrical cable from which power is obtained to operate the cars in the mine.  The cable is along the track a sort of third rail proposition.  Once fire starts in a mine it spreads rapidly and is one of the worst fires known in its persistency and death it spreads in its wake.

First aid was immediately sent to the scene of the disaster, physicians from DuQuoin and Elkville with supplies for the injured.

As soon as it was seen that there was no chance to get the men out, to save the mine from burning out entirely, the shafts were sealed to smother the flames.

That the men entombed died within a short time after the fire started is the opinion of those familiar with mine fires, succumbing to suffocation.

Relatives and friends of the ill-fated men are reluctant to give up hope.  The father of Valerius, son of a wealthy farmer and former owner of the land under which the fire started, offered $10,000 for the rescue of his son.

Rescuers from Benton, some of whom saw the Cherry mine fire, declare the Kathleen fire is the worst they ever witnessed.  Mine officials stated today it will probably be more than a month before the fire ceases burning and the bodies exhumed from the debris.

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