July 22, 1972: Fire in Blacksville Number One Kills Nine Miners

This Week in WV History

On July 22, 1972, a fire broke out at the Blacksville Number 1 mine in Monongalia County. It was sparked by a continuous mining machine that came into contact with an electric wire.

The volatile Pittsburgh coal seam at Blacksville ignited quickly. At the time, 43 men were underground; 34 escaped, but nine men who were working deep in the mine died after inhaling smoke and fumes. Days later, the mine was sealed at the surface to protect rescue workers from potential explosions.

Blacksville Number 1 was eventually reopened, and coal mining resumed. However, by 1992, Number 1 had reached the end of its useful life and was being sealed up to reduce air intake into the shaft. On March 19 of that year, while drainage pipes were being welded together and placed into the production shaft, a spark fell and ignited methane gas in the shaft. The resulting explosion killed four miners and seriously injured two others. A judge later found that the Consolidation Coal Company, which owned Blacksville Number 1, had failed to follow proper safety precautions when sealing the mine.