Terrible Explosion of Fire-Damp in a Wyoming Mine
Iowa State Reporter, Waterloo, Iowa
January 21, 1886
EVANSTON, Wy. T., Jan. 17. -- The fire-damp explosion in Mine No. 4 at Almy, three miles northwest of this place, proves to have been one of the most serious in the history of Rocky Mountain coal-mines. Occurring as it did Friday night, when only a light force of miners were at work, the death toll was limited to thirteen souls, but had it taken place during the day the loss of life must have run up into hundreds, for every person in the mines at the time met with instant death. The whole face of the country and that portion of the settlement fronting the slope gives evidence of the terrible force of the explosion.
The weigh and fan-houses were entirely demolished and the engine-house wrecked, while residences and business houses lost fronts, windows, doors and chimneys. The mouth of the slope has the appearance of a huge funnel, from which fully a thousand cubic yards of rock have been torn and distributed over the adjacent country.
A train of thirteen cars going down into the mine at the time of the explosion was broken into fragments and shot out as though from the mouth of a cannon. William and Joseph, passengers thereon, were most terribly mutilated, the former being blown over the engine-house and a portion of the town. The body was found seven hundred feet from the mouth of the slope minus the head and arm and the contents of the stomach. It had bounded and rolled fully thirty yards after striking the ground.
Timbers and track for seventy feet inside the slope were torn up and scattered over the surrounding country, and the ground for fully half a mile from the mouth of the mine was crowded with pieces of cars, ties, timbers and other debris. Every air shaft was blown away, leaving huge pits.
Many people living near the mine narrowly escaped death. Huge timbers crashed through the roof of Superintendent Faulk's residence, two hundred and fifty yards from the slope, and fell between the two beds occupied at the time by Faulk and his family.
John Smith lives in a house in front of the air-shaft in the mouth of the mine. Here the force of the explosion tore a great hole in the earth twenty feet in diameter, and a rock weighing over a ton fell through the roof into the kitchen, demolishing the stove.
The store of Beckwith, Quinn and Co., two hundred feet sway, lost its front, and some goods were damaged. The wheel from the pit-car passed through an outhouse nearby, as if thrown from a catapult.
The killed number thirteen. The bodies of the last of the victims were taken out Friday morning. The mine did not take fire as at first reported, and nothing save the destruction of the fan-house and consequent trouble in getting pure air into the mine delayed the exploration and recovery of the bodies. All of the victims save two were Mormons, married, and leave large families.
The most acceptable theory as to the cause of the explosion is this. Two foremen are employed to examine the mine every night for fire-damp to see that it is clear before the day-shift goes on. These men carry both open and safety lamps, and it is believed one of them ventured into some room with the former where an unusual quantity of gas had accumulated.
An explosion occurred here in Mine No. 2 in March, 1881, by which thirty-two Chinamen and six white men lost their lives. Mine No. 4, however, was considered the model of the camp, and extreme carelessness is the only reasonable explanation of the explosion.