Mine rescue teams train, compete in Blacksburg

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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) It's a dark, dirty job, but somebody has to answer the call. Mine Rescue teams go in the depths of the earth to save hurt or trapped miners.

This week, several first responding teams are in Blacksburg showing off their skills above ground during the Mine Rescue Competitions.

It's the most realistic training rescuers can get outside of an actual disaster.

There are obstacles at every turn and trapped miners waiting for rescue. It's just a simulation but mine rescuers treat this like the real thing.

"With what's on the line when these events happen it's very important that we take on these extra rolls," said Andy Sawyers a competitor with the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy.

Every year the Virginia Mining Institute hosts the competition that puts mine rescuing teams head to head in this maze to practice lifesaving skills.

"As they work their way through the mine, they'll run into conditions that they've got to make decisions of how to handle the condition, how to recover people," said Wayne Davis, the contest coordinator.

This year, nine teams from Alabama, Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia have limited time to beat their challenges, rescue a stranded miner, and secure the area.

"We'll encounter different things like different gases, they can either be explosive or irrespirable. We'll try to move that air, we'll try to do things to make the mine safer," Sawyers said.

These rescuers are the first responders to any mine emergency and they make sure underground mines are safe for work. This gives them practice working as a team and tips they can use in real situations.

"Mental and physical fatigue is what we look for so when they're called to an actual event they know what to expect," Davis said.

The competitions wrap up Thursday. These teams travel from state to state for other contests. They also train every month to stay fit and keep their equipment working.