A fire in the Giroux shaft was disastrous in the loss of life which it caused and unusual in that the seven deaths occurred at widely separated points and at considerable intervals. As is often the case, the cause of the fire remains unknown.
It was at first thought that a dynamite explosion set fire on the timbering, but the fire originated in the station of the 1,000-foot level, where no work was supposed to be in progress. It is believed that the two men passing from the 770-foot level to 1,400-foot level had stopped at the 1,000-foot level and must have left a lighted candle snuff there, and that the flame from it ignited the timbering.
The greatest damage occurred at the 1,000-foot level, where the station and most of the ore pocket were destroyed. It extended, however, to the 770-foot and the 1,200-foot levels. The mine was flooded, and the water was not finally removed until February 1912, more than 6 months later.
One of the victims was the cage tender, who attempted to come up the shaft on the cage but fell off 15 feet below the cellar. One man on a cage loaded with the men from the 1,400-foot level was pulled off the cage during hoisting presumably by a manila bell cord. The cord probably had been burned where the fire was hottest and broke when pulled for the hoisting signal, so that it fell down the shaft and entangled the man who was killed.
Two men were killed from inhaling gas or flame as they were being pulled through the fire zone on the cage. Finally, three men attempted to climb out on the ladders of the other shaft, the Alpha, and were overcome by gas.
It was thought that turning on the sprinkling system may have reversed the air currents and thus driven the products of combustion out through the Alpha shaft. Three other men were burned but recovered.
Fire doors might have proved a means of safety in this case, also. Although the reversal of the air current was not proved, it is possible that the sprinkling water may have caused reversal of air flow.
||Historical Summary of Mine Disasters in the United States, Volume III
Seven Dead Perish in Burning Mine; More May Die
Oakland Tribune, California
August 24, 1911
Ely, Nev., Aug. 24. -- Of ten men who were working at the 1400-foot level of the new five-compartment shaft of the Giroux Consolidated Mines when it caught fire last night, seven are dead and three lie at the point of death after passing through the flames to reach the surface.
- Daniel Shea, secretary of the local miners union
- T. J. Gilmore, shift boss
- John Wilhelmy
- Thomas O'Dolevich
- Edward Walsh
- John McNulty
- Michael Foley
- Clarence Gates
- Edward Knox
- Peter Harrington
The men on the 1400-foot level heard a noise which they thought was caused by an explosion. They looked upward and saw the shaft in flames.
They all boarded the cage and started for the surface. At the 1200-foot level they encountered the flames and stopped.
Wilhelmy and four other men left the cage and started to walk through the 1200-foot level to the old Alpha shaft, several hundred feet away, through which they hoped to climb out of the mine.
The five men remaining in the cage gave the signal to hoist and were pulled through the blazing shaft. One was dead when the top was reached and the other four were taken to a hospital. The work of rescuing the five men lying in the mine was then attempted through the Alpha shaft.
At the 400-foot level Wilhelmy was found dead; Gilmore's body was recovered at the 600-foot level; face downward at the bulkhead O'Dolevich lay dead.
The other two bodies were found clinging to ladders, where the men had been suffocated.
This is the same mine in which three and a half years ago, two men were killed and four others entombed for forty-six days in the Alpha shaft.
The new shaft is one of the largest and deepest in the district and cost over a quarter of a million dollars. Every effort is being made to extinguish the flames, which are still burning.