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Emerald Coal and Coke Company
Emerald Mine Fire

Clarksville, Greene County, Pennsylvania
June 7, 1944
No. Killed - 6

Six Dead in Clarksville Mine Blaze
The Charleroi Mail, Pennsylvania
June 9, 1944

The father of nine children, two of whom are in the Army, was among the six men killed in a fire at the Emerald Coal and Coke Company coal mine at Clarksville -- Greene County's first mine disaster in several years.  He is Steve Barnish, 55, of Clarksville.  One of his sons in the armed forces is in Italy.

Others killed, according to a casualty list released last night by company officials after the mine was ordered sealed as the only means of extinguishing the fire, are:
  • Homer Brendel, 45
  • Frank Maycheck, 49
  • Pete Butina, 50
  • Lewis Horwait, 49
  • Vito Carlo, 52
When the men were presumed lost, officials of the United States Bureau of Mines ordered the shaft sealed after firemen and rescue workers battled the blaze for nearly 18 hours.  The six men were trapped in a remote section of the mine when a load of hay became ignited by a short-circuited wire.  Of the 157 men in the mine when the fire started, 151 escaped through the main 400-foot shaft.

Thirty horses used to haul pit wagons underground were suffocated by the smoke and gas fumes which spread throughout the shafts.

Brendel's survivors include his widow, who was not told of the tragedy until yesterday afternoon when orders came to seal the mine, and their five children, William, Richard, Dolores, Merian and Dorothy.  They reside on the new Federal Housing project near Clarksville.

Laboring to save the lives of their fellow workmen were members of the Chartiers rescue team, captained by Ben Bradley who were given commendable assistance by the team from Tower Hill and the crack crews of Clyde's No. 1 and 3 of Republic Steel.

East Bethlehem and Jefferson Volunteer fire departments each sent two trucks to the scene, the former arriving at 7:30 o'clock Wednesday night, shortly after the alarm was sounded.  They remained on the job until after 4:30 o'clock yesterday afternoon.

Directed by Assistant Fire Chief Albie Tinelli, four volunteers of the East Bethlehem Company donned masks and lowered in the cage to man more than 3,000 feet of hose extended from the surface in an effort to combat the blaze.  The firemen who entered the workings, to find it an inferno, were Robert McClellan, George Haley and Charles Chalena, all of Fredericktown, and Henry Neill, Vestaburg.  All except Chalena, a salesman, were veteran miners.

Rushing to the scene to lend all assistance possible to Superintendent Lamb were the following:
  • William Stevenson, general manager of the plant
  • George O'Brien, superintendent of the Allison and Tower Hill mine
  • Tom Latta, superintendent at Crucible
  • Dick Johnson, of Uniontown, district representative of the Pittsburgh Mine Safety Appliance Company
  • William J. Hynes, president of UMWA District No. 4
  • Michael Honus, district secretary-treasurer
  • Sam Seehoffer and John Comolo, district UMWA organizers
Investigation of the cause of the disaster promptly was started by Richard Maize, state secretary of mines; Garfield Thomas, deputy state secretary of mines; John McKenna, Waynesburg, district state inspector; Ed Wilkinson, Uniontown, and William Ivel, Monongahela City, state inspectors; Al Nairn, federal inspector.

Troopers A. H. Krull and Sam Orlosky, from the Washington, Pa., state police headquarters, guarded the premises to prevent the crowd from milling near the points where workers were engaged in sealing the mine at the four entrances -- Clyde No. 3 seven flat, left four west; the Lippencott air shaft where the 151 men escaped to safety, the shaft at the main plant and the slope further up the hill.

Until the fire is extinguished by lack of air circulation, the bodies will remain in the mine.  The particular area of the mine is such that it will be some time before the fire will consume all the combustible gases from the air.  Estimates have been given from 90 days to one year before the bodies may be recovered.

In the meantime, the mine will be out of production throwing 640 employees into idleness.

Because of their proximity to the burning mine, three other mines were closed today as a safety precaution.  They are the Republic Steel Corporation's Clyde No. 1 and Clyde No. 3, and Emerald's Clyde No. 2.

The mines will be inspected during the weekend and if state mine inspectors decide they are safe, work will be resumed on Monday.  Meanwhile, a total of 1,900 men were idle in the four mines.

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