united states mine rescue association Mine Disasters in the United States
Centralia Mine Disaster Memorial
Centralia Coal Company Centralia No. 5 Mine Explosion
March 25, 1947
No. Killed - 111
From the Bureau of Mines report by M. J. Ankeny, W. A. Gallagher, F. J. Smith, Frank Perz, and J. S. Malesky
At 3:26 p.m. the assistant mine superintendent was in the powerplant when the fuse in the fan power circuit blew out. Knowing that something had happened in the mine, he telephoned to the district mine inspector and had the mine office call the sate mine rescue station; calls were also made to bring other state rescue teams. He went down the shaft and found dust and smoke at the bottom. With the mine manager he organized rescue attempts by the men at hand to bring out survivors. As assistance arrived from outside, rescue teams were sent in to bring out survivors, explore ahead of fresh-air crews, and locate bodies. All stoppings and doors inby 15 north 1 west and the stopping between 20 and 21 north off 4 west were destroyed.
The stoppings were replaced by temporary seals and the last body was recovered by 5:30 a.m. March 30. At the time of the explosion 142 men were in the mine. Of these, 65 were killed by burns and violence and 45 by afterdamp. Eight men were rescued but one of these died from the effects of afterdamp. The other 24 escaped unaided. The explosion probably originated at the face of 1 west and spread north and south through the first opening to the right and left.
An underburdened shot or a blown out shot stemmed with coal dust ignited dust, and the explosion was propagated by coal dust through the workings to the north, south, and east from the junction of 1 west. Four of the six working sections were affected by the flame and violence of the explosion. The two remaining sections were affected only the afterdamp resulting from the combustion of coal dust. Forces were extremely violent in some portions, while in other the velocity of the explosion was so slow that there was little of the explosion was so slow that there was little evidence of its direction. Flame extended from the face of 1 west and the adjacent workings to a point about 800 feet from the faces of 1 and 2 west. Flame also traversed the 20, 21, and 22 north entries off 4 west, the active rooms off 20 and 22 north and other rooms and part of 17, 18, 19 north.
The explosion was localized and confined when it reached the rockdusted zones on the entries. It traveled through all the active rooms and some abandoned rooms, none of which had been treated with rockdust, but it failed to propagate through old workings that were partly caved, and in some parts filled with incombustible roof rash brought there from open entries by means of shuttle cars. Large areas of open working gave relief of pressure.
The mine was exceedingly dry and dusty, and heavy deposits of coal dust were present along the roadways and on the roof, ribs and timbers in working places and entries. Very little effort had been made to load out excessive dust, and water had not been used to allay the dust at its source. Rockdust had been applied on active haulage entries but was not maintained close enough the faces and was not applied in rooms. In active entries rockdusting terminated from 500 to 1,000 feet from the faces. Permissible explosives were used in blasting, fired by fuse and detonators. Carbide lamps were used to light the fuse. The holes were stemmed with coal cuttings and some clay. Pairs of drillers drilled and charged shot holes during the shift. Six holes, 2.5 inches in diameter and 8 feet deep, were drilled in entries or crosscuts. Bottom holes were 2 feet from the floor and top holes 2.5 feet higher. Fuse was trimmed to obtain the desired order of firing. Charges were from 1 to 2 pounds. Shots were fired near the end of the working shift when the other employees were at the mantrips or enroute to them.
At the time of the explosion most of the men were at the mantrips on the entries waiting for the shot firers to complete lighting the shots so that the shot firers could ride to the shaft bottom on the mantrips. The dusty conditions of the mine and blasting procedures were contrary to the Sate mining law and to the Federal Mine Safety Code under which the mine was being operated by the Coal Mines Administration.