Sunshine Mine Disaster Memorial I-90, Exit 54

On May 2,1972, a fire broke out under ground at the Sunshine Mine in Kellogg, Idaho. Ninety-one men died of carbon monoxide poisoning. The disaster had a devastating effect on Kellogg and the nearby communities in Idaho’s Silver Valley. People who were there still vividly remember the events of that day.

Electricians on the 3700 level of the Sunshine Mine smelled smoke and shouted a warning. A fire of unknown origin had begun, but it was no standard mine fire – nearly 100 lost their lives that day while 83 were rescued, many through heroic acts by co-workers and rescue employees. Two men spent a week in the mine before being rescued.

None of the men working on the 4200, 5200, 5400, 5600 and 5800 levels survived. Thirty-one died on the hoist room floor.

The now-defunct Bureau of Mines believed the probable cause of the fire was spontaneous combustion of refuse near scrap timber used to backfill worked out stopes. Extensive ground falls and caving occurred in the immediate area when timber supports were consumed, making investigation of the entire fire area impossible.

Families of trapped miners stood vigil for days in the mine yard, and the Sunshine was closed for nearly eight months while about 200 workers repaired damage caused by the fire.

Many affected by the fire remain in the Silver Valley to this day, a common bond uniting them, while others have since moved on to different locations. Still, plenty return for the memorial service. It’s on May 2 each year that people of all ages – including fallen miners’ wives and the grandchildren the miners were never able to meet – reconnect with each other to honor lives lost.