Mine competitions begin today

The Annual Colorado Coal Mine Rescue Competition will take place starting today and will continue through Friday.

The competition, which was not held in 2001 because of declining interest, will be in Craig.

The Northwest Colorado Coal Mine Rescue Association, in 2002, joined with the mines in Peonia, Colo., to form the Colorado Coal Mine Rescue Association. The competition resumed and was held in Peonia in 2002 and will alternate every year between there and Craig.

According to Lincoln Derick, technical safety manager for Twentymile Coal Company, there are three separate contests for the nine teams that are competing that are judged during the competition. There will be three different teams on three different fields at Craig Middle School on Wednesday competing in simulated underground events.

The bench contest and the first aid contest will be held Thursday. The bench contest is where judges put defects into the miners breathing apparatus, which is a four-hour, pure oxygen system, and the miners must make an inspection of the apparatus to find the defect.

"It is much more difficult than the forced air breathing apparatuses that the fire departments use," Derick said.

The first aid contest involves two people and a patient and can be for first responders or EMTs. A banquet will be held Thursday night along with the awards for the three contests.

Two teams from different mines on Friday will team up to solve a lengthy two- to three-hour problem.

"We usually put a newer team with a veteran team," Derick said.

Attending this year's competition are two U.S. Army engineers who will observe coal mine rescue procedures and breathing apparatuses because they will be putting together an underground rescue team.

"They are our special guests this year," Derick said.

Camaraderie, according to Derick, is a key result that comes from the competition.

"No one can respond to a mine disaster besides other rescue teams," Derick said and this event is "invaluable" to developing relationships between mining rescue teams.

Bill Denning, who has worked with the Mine Health and Safety Administration for 28 years, is an organizer of the challenges that the rescue teams will face this week.

Along with setting up the problems "our agency has the judges. I am the head judge, I go around to all of the fields and make sure things are going OK," Denning said.

The Mine Health and Safety Administration tries to make tests for the rescue teams similar to those at the national competition in Louisville, Ky.

It takes about six weeks of planning for the Mine Health and Safety Administration to get ready for the competition.

Liz King is an intern with the Craig Daily Press. She can be reached at 824-7031 or lking@craigdailypress.com

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