Coal fires are common around the world. The Colorado River Valley has at least 25 burning within 10 miles of the small town of New Castle, Colorado. One has been burning since February 18, 1896, when the Vulcan Mine exploded, killing 49 men.
Despite the explosion and fires, the Vulcan was reopened several years later, only to experience another explosion and fire that killed 37 men on December 12, 1913. These two disasters account for two of the worst 10 mining disasters in the state.
Yet even with these two disasters, mining at the Vulcan Mine was not finished. Three more men died in 1918 during sulfur extraction operations for munitions manufacturing for World War I. A memorial to the miners is located in a park in New Castle.
The slopes on Horse Mountain are barren due to the heat of the fires underground. During the winter, snow melts from the slopes more quickly than the surrounding ground, and steam and smoke can sometimes be seen rising from the ground.
Know Before You Go
The mine is on private property on the south side of the Colorado River about two miles from New Castle. It can be viewed from Garfield County Road 335 or from Grand River Park on the south side of the Colorado River. The memorial is located in Burning Mountain Park on Main Street in New Castle.