Coal mine smoldering poses fire risk in SW Colo.

Posted: May 8, 2013

Written by

Associated Press
Menefee Mountain

At least seven coal fires are smoldering near the site of a wildfire that burned 10,000 acres in southwestern Colorado last year.

Coal fires are not uncommon and can burn for decades underground without ever producing open flames. But the number of fires near the mountain concerns state and federal authorities, who are forming a plan to stop the coal from burning. It's expected to cost at least $200,000. Authorities knew there was at least one fire burning, but an aerial survey of the area revealed more coal fires.

Coal is currently simmering in four coal-mine refuse piles and three natural coal seams. The smoldering coal releases small streams of smoke and heats the surface up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit.

That smoke and heat could potentially ignite vegetation at the surface and start a wildfire, Kirstin Brown, a mine safety specialist for the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety told The Cortez Journal. Crews have been working to move brush away from the burning coal.

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