Underground coal fire breaks out in Wayne forest

Underground coal fire breaks out in Wayne forest

10 December 2007

published by www.athensnews.com

USA — A fire is burning in the Wayne National Forest, but it’s burning under the trees.

The fire is an underground coal fire located one mile south of Gore in Hocking County.

The Coal Dale Fire was first spotted on Wednesday, Oct. 29, by a firefighter for the Wayne National Forest, according to a press release from the federal agency. The fire was first seen burning both on the surface and underground, the release stated.

On Friday, Nov. 2, the Wayne National Forest closed five acres of land around the fire because of safety concerns. This part of the forest, located near Ohio Rt. 595 and County Road 19 in Hocking County, remains closed.

Last week, the Forest Service hired the D.J. Group, Inc. from Beverly, Ohio, to complete the fire-suppression work, according to the release. Currently, the contractor is clearing three acres of vegetation in advance of the fire-suppression excavation work, the release said. Once the fire is suppressed, the contractor will conduct reclamation work on the former mine property, according to the release.

DeVela Clark, public affairs officer for the Wayne National Forest, said Friday that the fire is burning in old coal slag, which is the waste left after coal is taken from the ground.

“What they are doing is digging up this slag coal and spreading it out,” Clark said. He estimated that it will take up to 14 days to have the fire put out. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, Clark said.

This is the only problem like this the Wayne National Forest has had in recent years, but other underground coal fires have been in the news lately, and one fire has been burning near New Straitsville for more than 120 years.

In April 2006, for example, the Ohio Department of Transportation closed Ohio Rt. 13 between Redtown and Jacksonville after a gob pile, made up of old coal refuse, was found burning near the highway and a gas line. The gob pile actually stretched underneath the highway, and all of the slag had to be removed from the pile and doused with water in order to extinguish the fire.

Gob-pile fires are often started when people are burning on top of the piles and don’t realize the slag is in the ground underneath them.

In the Perry County village of New Straitsville, a fire in a coal mine has been burning since 1884. According to the book, “History of the Coal-Mining Industry in Ohio,” by Douglas L. Crowell, striking coal miners started the fire in five mines in New Straitsville and Sand Run. Most of the fires were put out, but some still burn today, according to the book.

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