Trailhead Fire Creates Hazards at Abandoned Mines

by Placerville Newswire / Sep 15, 2016 / comments

Across the Mother Lode are hundreds of mines -- some still undiscovered. About 12 mines in Eldorado National Forest may be compromised.

By Vicki Gonzalez -- The U.S. Forest Service is working on abandoned mines that have become safety hazards as a result of the Trailhead Fire.

"This is our time with the stuff burned away we can see things like these mine shafts, and typically we'll discover new ones after a fire," said Kristi Schroeder with the Forest Service in El Dorado County.

Upwards of a dozen mines in the Eldorado National Forest are believed to be compromised due to the Trailhead Fire.

"People are used to us for the active part of the wildfire. They don't see the after part," Schroeder said. "We send in a BAER team, a Burned Area Emergency Response team, right at the end of the fire or after the fire is contained."

The U.S. Forest Service BAER team is specially trained in mines.

"The ingenuity. How these guys did what they did back in the day when nothing was even mechanized," said Mary Rosellen, the regional abandoned mines facilitator.

Rosellen has been working with mines with the U.S. Forest Service for 25 years.

"Just as a kid, working for the Forest Service. Started cleaning out mines and it just progressed from there," Rosellen said.

On Wednesday, the BAER team focused on an abandoned mine near an urban area outside Georgetown. A vertical shaft was created to connect to an underground cavity spanning more than 200 feet, to continue an airflow for the bats and other animals that live in the mine.

"That's what's dangerous out here are the vertical shafts," Schroeder said. "Because you can just step in them and they can be small or they can be big."

As a result of the Trailhead Fire, the ground eroded and caved in, destroying the shaft and creating a large gaping hole to be filled.

"We are really focused on public safety. You know we are not going to go in and backfill all of these mines. Right now these are abandoned mines. No one has a claim on them. No one is interested in them," Schroeder said. "Can you imagine a couple of teenagers out here, 'Oh, here is a cool hole in the ground let me explore it,' and something happens and they can't get out. Nobody knows they are here."

The BAER team excavated the vertical shaft, then using a liquid foam to create a strong foundation before back-hoeing the hole full of dirt.

The foam is similar to a household repair for cracks. It consists of separate chemicals, when combined, react to expand and solidify into a sturdy substance with a shelf life of 100 years, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

"We have hunting season coming up. There's going to be a lot of people running around in the woods. And they are going to be off the trails and off the roads," said Schroeder. "So here is a case in point. We don't know where all of these are. So be very careful of where you are walking and where you are stepping."

See Video report HERE