Forest Service Plugs Up Damaged Mine Shaft

GEORGETOWN -- A burned area emergency response team from the U.S. Forest Service is still dealing with the aftermath of the Trailhead Fire, which burned 5,700 acres in the Eldorado National Forest in June.

The collection of wildlife experts including engineers and archaeologists often canvas fire scenes to try to mitigate damage.

On Wednesday a team from the forest service's abandoned mine land unit were working to assess an exposed mine ventilation shaft that was once topped with a metal culvert to help a population of native bats.

The culvert was locked into place with hardened foam that burned in the fire causing it to collapse into the shaft.

"Now the size of the hole which was originally the size of the culvert is now 4 or five times wider," said Kristi Schroeder, public affairs specialist with the Eldorado National Forest.

The hole, which is now 15 to 20 feet wide, needed to be plugged up because the collapsed shaft could no longer be used by bats. It was still a hazard to hunters and hikers in the area.

There are miles and miles of abandoned gold mining shafts in the area.

"It's incredibly common, there are probably hundreds all over this entire area," said Mary Rosellen, coordinator for the Abandoned Mine Land Program.

The culvert was removed with a tractor and liquid foam was activated and mixed in portable bags. The mixture was then squirted into the hole where it hardened in minutes. The tractor then filled the hole with earth that was excavated earlier.

"There's a lot we do behind the scenes that (people) don't see,"said Schroeder.

The mine experts are busy dealing with abandoned mine shafts throughout California even when there are no fires.