During the past 15 years the number of reportable mine fires has declined. A decline in the number of reportable fires is a gross indicator that allows experts to say something about the underground coal industry generally: There has been some improvement in overall mine fire preparedness. However, such an indicator is less reliable as a predictor of readiness at any particular operation. An indication of fire fighting preparedness would have to be assessed from evidence gathered at the mine site. In other words, there are two levels from which to view the problem. On a general level, there has been significant improvement in the industry's fire response capabilities over the past two decades. Specifically, however, little data has been gathered on a site-by-site basis to determine what improvements might be made on a local level. These improvements would move beyond regulatory compliance. It is expected that this manuscript, based on work conducted at an underground coal mine in the western United States, will help to focus attention on some central concerns involving this critical issue.