One Dead from Explosion in Pittsburg-Idaho Mine

Butte Daily Post, January 4, 1917, at Library of Congress, Chronicling America

Thomas D. Thomas is Asphyxiated While Trying to Escape. Fourteen Miners Bulkhead Themselves in Drift. Rescued 12 Hours Later.

Special to the Post.

Gilmore. Ida., Jan. 4.—Fifteen men were caught like rats in a trap at tht Alamo hoist of the Pittsburg-Idaho mine at noon yesterday when fire, caused by the explosion of a gasoline tank ignited from a miner's carbide Lamp broke out. In trying to make his escape through a drift, Thomas D. Thomaa was asphyxiated. His body was recovered at midnight The balance of the men were entombed 12 hours before they were rescued. Aside from being weakened by breathing the deadly gas, the others escaped injury.

Tried to Escape.

When the explosion occurred Thomas was working on the level with his brother, John Thomas. They were doing contract work and, with the other 13 men, rushed to a nearby drift to escape the smoke. The entraped crew began immediately to bulkhead the drift, but Thomas feared that to remain in the drift would mean certain death. He urged his brother and others to make their escape with him through an adjoining tunnel. They refused and he made the attempt alone. His body was found only a short distance from where he had left his companions. Thomas was about 35 years old and leaves a wife and small child. He had been working here for about four years, coming to Gilmore from Butte, Mont. Recently he had been doing contract work for the Pittsburg-Idaho company.

Volunteer Crew.

As soon as the alarm of fire was sounded a volunteer crew of men met to work to extinguish the flames. There is no mines safety crew in Gilmore and the means for fighting fire underground are meager. It was midnight before it was safe for anyone to go below the 400-foot level and it was not until then that the fate of the entombed miners was learned.

Aside from Thomas Thomas the others at work on the level were his brother, John Thomas, J. Luster, O. L. Johnson, John Doyan, Ed Denny, Harry Hall, Nick Spiker, Fred Blake, Ed Nunnelly, Ed Moran, W. Kennett. Robinson and two others whose names were not ascertained.

The 600-foot level is the lowest in the mine and has many stopes and drifts. The rescuers, however, once they gained entrance, were not long in locating the entombed men. The latter had used every available supply of timber to hastily construct the bulkhead, filling up the crevices and cracks with ore and their clothing. Many were weak from exhaustion and inhaling the foul air, but they were soon revived upon being hoisted to the surface.

Fire Spreads Rapidly.

No one seems to be able to explain how the carbide lamp which caused the damage came in contact with the gasoline tank. It had been left burning, it is said, in the tunnel some distance from the tank. No one was injured from the explosion. The fire spread rapidly and in a brief space of time the entire level, which has much timbering and lagging suppley was filled with smoke. Today the fire had been entirely extinguished and the mine was practically free of gas. The Pittsburg-Idaho mine is one of the greatest lead producers of the state, aside from the Coeur d'Alene district. It was owned by the Pittsburg and Gilmore Railway company before the latter concern was sold to the Northern Pacific about a year ago. About 100 men are employed at the mine and the entire day and night shifts Joined in the rescue work.

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