NR 2002-22
May 25, 2002

Contact: Carol Dahmen
Mark Oldfield
Don Drysdale
Ed Wilson
(916) 323-1886


ACTON, CA. – The Los Angeles County Fire Department battled a blaze in the abandoned Red Rover Mine, once owned by a former governor of California, for hours early Saturday morning. The California Department of Conservation provided the firefighters with some insight about the mine’s layout and the same cautionary words it gives to all those who go near abandoned mines:

“Stay out, stay alive.”

Firefighters arrived at the old gold mine -- located about three miles northwest of Acton in Soledad Canyon – about 3 a.m. They unsuccessfully used water to try to quell the blaze but managed to put it out using high-expansion foam.

According to the fire department, the blaze started on a wooden frame above a 30-foot deep shaft. It appears that lateral tunnels running off the shaft brought in air to keep the fire burning, and timbers inside the mine fueled the fire. There is no indication of how the fire started or whether anyone was inside the mine.

“We warned the fire department personnel about the possibility that the shaft may be much deeper than they could see,” DOC Director of Communications Carol Dahmen said. “There might have been debris blocking the shaft. We indicated that they should use caution if they were to enter the shaft. They had no intention of doing so, which is the smart move.”

California Governor Henry T. Gage owned the Red Rover Mine from 1899-1903. It consisted of six shafts ranging from 100 to 650 feet deep covering about a quarter of a mile along the strike of the vein. Most of the shafts have been filled in. The property was inactive from 1912-1931, when the Governor Mines Company acquired it. In 1938, about 200 tons of ore valued at $10 per ton were mined. It has been inactive since the early 1940s, and nearly all of the machinery has been removed.

The L.A. County Fire Department indicated that there was a mine rescue at the Governor Mine – about a mile away from the Red Rover Mine – several years ago. Department of Conservation records indicated that there is a body in the Governor Mine in an area too dangerous to allow removal.

DOC’s Office of Mine Reclamation last year did a study stating that there are approximately 39,000 abandoned mines in the state. The study estimated that 84 percent of those historic mines present some physical safety hazard, such as unstable structures that could collapse. An additional 11 percent present environmental hazards, such as old explosives, chemicals and poisonous gasses.

In addition to studying and mapping abandoned mines, the Department of Conservation ensures the reclamation of land used for mining; maps and categorizes mineral resources; promotes beverage container recycling; regulates oil, gas and geothermal wells; studies and maps earthquakes and other geologic phenomena; and administers agricultural and open-space land conservation programs.