Mark Beauchamp, the rescue team trainer at Twentymile Coal Co., stands near the mine’s main building in Routt County wearing his bench, or self-contained breathing apparatus. Next week, Twentymile will compete in the Colorado Mine Rescue Contest, a three-day event at Moffat County High School in Craig. Beauchamp is a two time-national champion in bench events.

Photo by Ben McCanna

Mark Beauchamp, the rescue team trainer at Twentymile Coal Co., stands near the mine’s main building in Routt County wearing his bench, or self-contained breathing apparatus. Next week, Twentymile will compete in the Colorado Mine Rescue Contest, a three-day event at Moffat County High School in Craig. Beauchamp is a two time-national champion in bench events.

Twentymile team sets sights on Utah rival

Colorado Mine Rescue Contest slated to begin July 19 in Craig

If you go …

What: Colorado Mine Rescue Contest

When: 8 a.m. July 19 through 21

Where: Moffat County High School, 900 Finley Lane

— The event is free and open to the public.

Mark Beauchamp said the Craig community can expect a small boom in business next week.

“We’re bringing in 250 people who will be eating out three meals a day and staying in hotel rooms and buying gas,” he said. “That’s a pretty good little stimulus for the week.”

Beginning July 19, 20 teams from the Western states will converge on Craig for the Colorado Mine Rescue Contest, a three-day event.

Beauchamp, who serves as team trainer for Twentymile Coal Co., said the event isn’t for everyone.

“It’s open to the public, but it’s not a spectator sport,” he said. “It’s not like watching football. Unless you really know what’s going on, it’s like watching grass grow.

“I hate to say that. If you’re into it, and you know what you’re looking for, it’s pretty interesting. But, for the average person … it’s really not that interesting.”

Nonetheless, mine rescue competitions can draw big crowds, Beauchamp said.

“We have a nationals (competition) every other year that draws three or four thousand people,” he said. “That’s people participating, vendors, people in the industry and family members coming in to watch.”

The Colorado Mine Rescue Contest has been hosted in Craig on odd years since 2001, Beauchamp said. On even years, it’s held in Delta.

Teams from Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming will compete in events in first-aid, bench, mine rescue and pre-shift.

Dianna Ponikvar, treasurer for the Colorado Mine Rescue Association, explained the different events.

The first-aid and bench competitions begin at 8 a.m. July 19 at the Moffat County High School gymnasium, 900 Finley Lane. In first-aid, competitors will treat hypothetical wounds on people posing as victims.

“They set up scenarios and have to treat injuries just like EMTs,” Ponikvar said.

Bench competitions, she said, involve the breathing apparatuses rescuers wear during emergencies. Competitors will have to identify and fix a faulty breathing apparatus.

“They’ll set it up so your apparatus fails, and you have to find what’s wrong with it and get it ready to wear,” Ponikvar said.

The mine rescue competition begins at 8 a.m. July 20 on the MCHS football field. The field will be set up to mimic three chambers of a mine, and competitors will have to work through scenarios like a mine collapse, Ponikvar said.

The pre-shift competition begins at 8 a.m. July 21, also on the MCHS football field.

Ponikvar said competitors will have to identify and fix hazards within the mock mine.

“Pre-shift is like a mine examination. Every eight hours, your mine has to be examined,” she said. “You walk the mine and look for any hazards. That’s what these guys will do, they’ll set up a scenario to find the hazards, or ventilation issues and have them fixed.”

Beauchamp said Twentymile will be the only local mine to compete in Craig. Other mines in the area, such as Trapper Mine and Colowyo Mine are surface mines and don’t compete in these events, he said.

“The only other one that is close is Deserado (Mine), which is in Rangely,” he said. “Then we have the mines down in Paonia, which are West Elk (Mine), Bowie Resources and Oxbow (Mine).”

Those mines will compete, he said.

Ponikvar said the team to beat is Deer Creek Mine in Price, Utah.

“Yeah, they’re tough to beat,” she said. “Usually they take first and Twentymile takes second, or vice-versa. They’ve been together for 25 years and they’re really good.”

Beauchamp said Twentymile has already squared off against Deer Creek twice in 2011.

“We got them in Farmington (N.M.), they got us in Price,” he said. “This will be the rubber match.”

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