Mine rescue and first-aid teams from coal mines in Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are participating this week in the 12th annual Rocky Mountain Coal Mine Rescue Contest, officials say.

The competition Thursday and Friday on the College of Eastern Utah campus is testing the 17 teams' abilities to respond to situations they might encounter in underground coal emergencies, said regional Labor Department spokesman Rich Kulczewski.Simulated mine rescue problems must be solved by the teams, which will be judged by representatives of the department's Mine Safety and Health Administration, Kulczewski said.

A series of emergency situations are presented in the first-aid contest and must be handled within a minimum time, he said. And a separate bench competition tests the miners' skills in maintaining and testing mine equipment.

"The contest represents the spirit of cooperation between the state mine inspection agencies, labor organizations, mine management, the federal government and other mining organizations," said John DeMichiei, MSHA's district manager for coal mine safety.

"These people are dedicated to continued improvements in responding more efficiently to mine fires and emergencies," DeMichiei said. "The teams are not only well-trained but enthusiastic about displaying their safety and health skills."

The competition is sponsored by the college, the Rocky Mountain Coal Mine Rescue Association, the Utah Industrial Commission and MSHA.