Posted by Melissa Burlaga
Tower, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Minnesota Inter-agency Fire Center (MIFC) are responding to a fire that has been detected inside the mine shaft at Soudan Underground Mine State Park near Tower, Minn.
There have been no injuries or loss of life due to the fire. It does not pose a risk to nearby communities or the environment.
DNR officials said they believe the fire is burning inside the shaft between the 23rd and 25th levels of the mine, which is operated as a state park.
The mine is also the site of a physics experiment being conducted by the University of Minnesota at the 27th level of the mine shaft.
An incident management team is being sent to the scene by MIFC. No firefighters or DNR personnel are currently fighting the fire because local crews are not trained to fight underground fires.
The DNR is seeking additional resources from the mining industry to help put out the fire.
Electric power inside the mine is off.
At approximately 9 p.m. Thursday, March 17, the mine’s smoke-detector system alerted University of Minnesota staff of a possible fire. At the time, no one was inside the mine.
When DNR staff and the Breitung Township Fire Department arrived at the scene, they could see smoke coming from the shaft, and security cameras indicated falling embers.
After sending an elevator cage down the shaft with gas and temperature monitors, the on-site crew estimated the fire was burning between the 23rd and 25th levels of the mine.
The mine shaft descends nearly a half-mile underground.
Tours of the mine take place May through October.
The park has historic buildings and a gift shop. None of the above-ground buildings are threatened by the fire.
Property damage inside the mine is anticipated to be extensive.The DNR is setting up an incident command center on-site. For information and updates, please call MIFC.
Soudan Underground Mine State Park is located 225 miles from St. Paul.
The iron-ore mine, the first in Minnesota, operated from 1882 to 1962. It became a state park in 1963.
Tours take place at the 27th level, 2,341 feet underground.
Professional interpreters lead tours of the mine and physics lab.
The physics lab, owned and operated by the University of Minnesota School of Physics, is the leading deep underground science and engineering laboratory in the United States.
A virtual tour of these underground facilities can be viewed at mndnr.gov (http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/soudan/virtual_tour/index.html).