DNR fights fire, time in underground blaze at Soudan mine

The DNR reports that fire fighters are making significant progress in its battle against the fire at the Soudan Underground Mine State Park. The advanced physics laboratory at the 27th level, just below the fire at the 23rd-25th levels, is still OK. The fire might still be burning, however, and more work and danger lies ahead.

Have I mentioned that this laboratory studies dark matter and neutrinos, in essence the origins and nature of the universe itself? This is not your average situation. No, sir.

From the DNR Saturday evening:

Foam, Water Helping Suppress Soudan Mine Shaft Fire

Responders are making headway in suppressing a fire inside the mine shaft at Soudan Underground Mine State Park. The incident is now being called the Soudan Mine Shaft Fire.

Tests on Saturday showed decreasing amounts of carbon monoxide (CO) in the shaft, indicating fire activity is decreasing. Carbon monoxide is a by-product of combustion. Responders were also encouraged Saturday after successfully raising and lowering elevator cages used to access the mine shaft at the mine.

Crews will be sending more fire-suppressing foam down the shaft Saturday evening. Foam and water used Friday apparently was succeeding in suppressing the fire. One elevator cage brought to the surface on Saturday was covered in foam, indicating the suppressant used Friday night was penetrating deep into the mine.

On Saturday night, crews are planning to use approximately half the volume of water and foam used Friday night.

Hoist operators carefully raised and lowered the cages on Saturday through the mine shaft without meeting any obstructions. The cages have been undamaged by the fire. The ability to raise and lower the cages allowed the staff to send down monitoring equipment, including a CO monitor, temperature gauges and a camera that provided critical information about the condition of the shaft.

The plan for Sunday is to continue to monitor conditions within the mine and begin the process of planning how mine crews will address restoring communications and power throughout the mine. Conducting this work within the underground mine environment requires extreme attention to safety. All decisions must be made with the crew members’ safety foremost in the planning.

More than 40 personnel are working in various capacities around the clock to subdue the fire, monitor conditions and continue their efforts to control the water that threatens the $50 to $100 million physic lab operated by the University of Minnesota on the mine’s lowest level.

Cooperators involved are from the Department of Natural Resources, the University of Minnesota, the Breitung Township Police Department and Breitung Township Volunteer Fire Department, Tower Volunteer Fire Department, the U.S. Forest Service, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MNPCA), the Minnesota Mine Safety Administration and the Homestake Mine of South Dakota in an advisory capacity.

(Photos: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Top: Smoke emerges from the mouth of the mine. Bottom: The lift emerges from the shaft covered in fire suppression foam.)

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