Abandoned mines also a danger in wildfire battle - CBS 5 - KPHO

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Abandoned mines also a danger in wildfire battle

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Arizona State Mine Inspector Joe Hart Arizona State Mine Inspector Joe Hart
Each black dot represents an abandoned mine near Crown King. Each black dot represents an abandoned mine near Crown King.
Hart says there are more than 9,500 abandoned mines around Arizona. Hart says there are more than 9,500 abandoned mines around Arizona.
CROWN KING, AZ (CBS5) -

Joe Hart isn't one to mince words.

Abandoned mines are serious threats to those battling Arizona's Gladiator Fire.

"It's extremely dangerous. I'm just scared to death," Hart said.

As Arizona's State Mine Inspector, he's the No. 1 expert Arizona has when it comes to abandoned mine shafts.

"Here's Crown King. All these little black dots are all abandoned mines," he pointed out on a map.

CBS 5 News asked Hart what he thought about all the abandoned mines scattered on the already treacherous terrain at the Gladiator Fire near Crown King.

"I just pray that nobody will fall in one of those things because they are death traps," he answered.

Hart said those death traps are right in the path of the firefighters who are already risking their lives.

"People are out there trying to protect our homes and our forest and everything else," he said.

Hart said the problem centers around what can be done about it.

"Well we've got a very limited budget for abandoned mines; I've got a pretty small staff. I've got two-and-a-half people to cover the entire state of Arizona with 9,500 abandoned mines that we know of that are dangerous," he said.

Without the budget to fill them all in, Hart said they're gaping holes made even more deadly by wildfire.

"A lot of these mines are extremely deep and if something catches on fire on top and falls down into one of those mines, they can really be an inferno because all of the timber that's in them will catch on fire," he said.

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