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Mine Disasters in the United States


Fairview Mining Company
Cardinal Mine Fire and Cave-in

Nederland, Boulder County, Colorado
December 4, 1925
No. Killed 1

Successful Rescue

20 miners were rescued from behind a barricade sixteen hours after a fire in the Cardinal gold mine in Colorado.  One miner was killed in the incident.  Source document.  PDF Format


Rescuer Death

Charles Hjurguist died while he and three others were searching for two miners trapped in the Cardinal Gold Mine fire and cave-in near Nederland, Colorado.  One of the trapped men died in the fire and the other was removed in serious condition and hospitalized.  Three other smoke-affected rescuers were also hospitalized in serious condition.  Source document.  PDF Format


Between 8 and 9 a. m., December 4, 1925, fire started in the compressor house, change house, and blacksmith shop at the entrance to the Cardinal tunnel of the Fairview Mining Co. near Nederland, Colo.  (Lead ore, carrying considerable gold and silver and a little copper, was being mined at the rate of 125 tons a day.  The mine had been worked over a period of 30 years.)

The tunnel was heavily timbered for 100 feet or more, beyond which it was in solid rock.  The fire spread to the timbers and thus imprisoned 20 men, including a contractor and a shift boss, and 2 horses in the mine.

A trammer discovered smoke in the tunnel, unhitched his horse (the horse was later found dead), and turned back into the mine at the junction of the tunnel and drift, where the other men were congregating.  The contractor and shift boss decided to build a barricade near a chute from No. 12 stope.  This bulkhead consisted of a couple of timbers (for sets), some boards, mud, and clothes.

Several men were more or less overcome by the smoke while erecting the barricade.  In all, 20 men and 1 horse were sealed in the drift, which had open stopes and drifts above it.  As they feared that the fan might be started by somebody on the outside, the miners cut the fan ventilation tubing near the barricade.

Meanwhile, outside the tunnel a fire-fighting and rescue crew attempted to extinguish the fire and get into the mine.  As this was impossible at the tunnel portal, at 9:00 p. m. that night they entered by way of the air shaft.  One man wore a 1-hour oxygen breathing apparatus, but three others are said to have entered without respiratory protection.  The four reached the barricade and tapped on the air pipe to notify the men behind of their presence.  The rescuers then pulled off two or three of the boards of the barricade, when smoke poured in through the opening.  The three rescuers without apparatus collapsed, and two were pulled inside the barricade by those behind; one was unconscious for 2 hours yet recovered, but the other died.

The contractor and another imprisoned miner then dashed for the outside with the third unprotected rescuer and the one with the apparatus; the last probably saved the lives of the contractor and the unprotected rescuer.  The other miner was found dead.

Finally, the fire was sealed off, the smoke cleared from the tunnel, and the barricaded miners walked out or were hauled out in mine cars by the horse they had taken in with them.  They were imprisoned for 16 hours and, apart from exposure to cold, were not seriously harmed.

In this instance little time was lost in deciding upon the erection and place for a barricade, and it was built quickly.  There was enough air in the bulkheaded workings to last the men at least 2 days.  The air shaft at the other end of the drift was an upcast, so smoke would be drawn away from the barricade.  As far as known, this is the first instance of imprisoned miners pulling rescuers behind a barricade, also the only one in which a horse was included within the barricaded region.

Two lessons are taught by this incident: (1) Rescuers should not open barricades until the mine air is clear of smoke, and (2) dashing away from a barricade before conditions are favorable for self-rescue again is shown to be fatal.




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