Coal miners swapped the dark, dank underground for a bright blue sky and scenic views of rural Harrison County this week during the 32nd annual Tri-State Post No. 6 Ohio Valley Mine Rescue Contest.
Teams representing mines in Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Alabama gathered again this week at the Cadiz Industrial Park. Competition concludes today, with awards being handed out this evening.
"These boys are trained to go into mine fires, mine disasters, water inundations - whatever could cause a mine problem - they are trained to go in and recover people and save lives," said Bob Talbert, supervisor at the Mine Safety and Health Administration St. Clairsville office and longtime event organizer.
Photo by Tyler Reynard
Judges stand nearby as the Consol Energy — Bailey Blue Team of Wind Ridge, Pa., navigates the course during the Tri-State Post No. 6 Ohio Valley Mine Rescue Contest on Wednesday in Cadiz.
Talbert was a member of the rescue team that placed first among six squads competing at the inaugural contest decades ago.
This year, organizers had to cut off the number of participating teams at 35.
"These are a special breed of miners," Talbert said.
Five-man teams were in full gear Wednesday as they navigated the outdoor mock mine.
They were tasked with resolving about 10 scenarios they could possibly encounter underground, including saving a trapped miner, while communicating with a briefing officer who sat invisible to his teammates on the sidelines.
On Tuesday, they were tested on their first aid administration, as well as their ability to repair their equipment.
The latter contest was held at the indoor simulated mines at the site.
In addition to MSHA, judges representing the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health Safety and Training, state departments of natural resources and state departments of environmental protection scored teams on their efficiency.
"Everybody has that competitive spirit," Talbert acknowledged. "You always want to beat your sister team, or other teams, but the ultimate goal is to give the teams the proper training for real life."
Rescue teams are required by law to train at least once monthly, Talbert noted, and may practice more frequently during competition season.