A fire was discovered in shaft No. 2 by the electrician and pumpman, who saw a burning brand drop down the shaft. It had originated in the shaft at or near the 4th level. Seventy-four men were in the mine at the time; 50 escaped unassisted by climbing to the Cambria Mine; 18 were hoisted out through shaft No. 1, and 6 were trapped in the mine.
Within 1 hour after the discovery of the fire, an attempt was made to begin rescue operations without the aid of breathing apparatus. Three bodies were discovered. However, because of the reversal of the air current while erecting a stopping, the smoke became so dense that the shift boss ordered the men to return to the surface. One man attempted to remain and finish the stopping but was overcome. It was several hours before rescuers reached him, but he was dead. Three of the others attempted to go out to the Cambria shaft but were overcome and were revived with great difficulty.
After several hours, the remaining three bodies were recovered in apparently good air by men without respiratory protection; they were accompanied by others wearing oxygen breathing apparatus. After removal of all the bodies, water was turned into the No. 2 shaft and the fire was extinguished quickly.
It was definitely determined that the reversal of the air had caused the loss of several lives, if not all. The cause of origin of the fire was not determined, but three possibilities were considered - electric wires, candle snuff, or incendiarism.
Historical Summary of Mine Disasters in the United States - Volume I
Seven Dead in Mine Fire
Washington Post, District of Columbia
May 6, 1911
Negaunee, Mich., May 5 -- Nearly a score out of a hundred miners in the Hartford mine of the Republic Iron and Steel Company were cut off from escape when the timbering of the mine took fire at 8 o'clock this morning, and at least seven men are dead.
The bodies of Edward Burska, Hebrer Dower, Harry Wharry, and John Tablin were recovered by rescue parties. Richard Yelland and his son William, and August Frederickson are still in the mine.
No hopes are entertained that they are alive. All the men smothered by smoke and gas from the fire. The fire broke out on the third level of the mine, 400 feet underground. It is the theory that some careless miner left a lighted candle too near the woodwork of the shaft.