CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A contractor will soon arrive to begin extinguishing a coal refuse fire that is currently burning in the Winterpock community of Chesterfield.

The fire was first reported on March 8, and around the same time several residents made calls to Chesterfield Emergency Communications about a strange smell in the Winterpock area. On March 9, authorities determined that the smell was due to a smoldering coal refuse pile, or material leftover from coal mining, in the historic Beaver Slope Mine.

This specific coal refuse pile is a result of the Bright Hope Coal Company operating in the area in 1877. Due to limited technology at the time to separate coal from rock, the spoil — or waste material — from mining was left behind.

On Friday, March 10, the Virginia Department of Energy reported that the pile is 100 by 30 feet and the fire is contained to a few spots within the pile. The Virginia Department of Energy’s Abandoned Mine Land (AML) team has now declared the fire an AML emergency.

Starting on Friday, March 17, a contractor with experience in extinguishing coal refuse fires will work to put out the fire. This contractor will remove the burning areas of the pile in phases, then spread the fire out and spray it with water. The entire process is expected to take between three and six days.

The public is still urged to stay out of the area during this process. While the contractor works, there is a possibility of increased carbon dioxide and hazardous gas on site. Chesterfield County fire officials and Virginia Energy AML staff will be monitoring these levels and informing crew and anyone living nearby if they rise to unsafe levels.

If you see something that might be associated with historic coal mining in your area, contact Virginia Energy.