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Alberta Online Encyclopedia
When Coal Was King
Industry, People and Challenges
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Fred Alderson

Frederick Dunn Alderson made his way to Hosmer, BC. and the coal mines of western Canada following mining adventures in South Africa, India and Mexico. He left his wife and four children at home in Durham County, England. He would never see them again.

Alderson immersed himself in the community of Hosmer and his work, quickly elevating himself to the level of fire boss. He became a member of the Hosmer Draeger Mine Rescue Team in 1910, during its founding year. Within weeks, the team would face a crucial test. On December 9, 1910 an underground mine explosion shook the town of Bellevue, just across the border. Within the mine, 47 men were trapped. No rescue equipment was available. A call was made and Alderson's team was on its way.

Wearing the "Draeger Breathing Apparatus," Alderson and the Mines Inspector, Robert Strachan, walked 2,000 feet into the contaminated air of the underground mine. There, they found a group of men clinging to life next to a leaking compressed-air pipe. Alderson stayed in the mine while Strachan took Alderson's self-contained breathing apparatus and led one man to safety. Strachan returned and Alderson took another miner out.

Frederick Alderson returned to the stranded miners. He was exhausted, but he gave his breathing apparatus to Strachan so he could get out of the poisoned mine. By the time the rescue team returned, the remaining miners were succumbing to the toxic air. The team worked valiantly, but lost two men. Fred Alderson was one of them. (It was rumored that a mine employee had shut off the compressed air, afraid of an underground fire.) Thirty-one men died that day. Among the survivors, there were men who owed their lives to Frederick Dunn Alderson, the Hosmer Hero.

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