msnbc.com news services
updated 12/28/2011 4:49:51 PM ET 2011-12-28T21:49:51

Tennessee on Wednesday, trapping three miners inside for about three hours before they were rescued, authorities said. Two other miners below ground were injured by smoke inhalation.

The three miners were trapped by smoke and needed respirators before they could leave the mine. A rescue team helped the miners and they appeared unharmed, though they are being taken to a hospital, said Tim Wilder of the Jefferson County EMA.

The two injured miners were taken to a local hospital had minor smoke inhalation, New Market Fire Department Captain Sammy Solomon said

There were 54 miners underground when the fire started on a drill rig about 800 feet below the ground, officials said.

The three men were able to make it to a safe room about a mile underground. About an hour after the fire ignited around 1:10 p.m. EST, they were able to make contact with people on the surface of the mine, officials said.

It was not clear yet how the fire started at the Young Mine about 25 miles northeast of Knoxville. The mine is operated by the Switzerland based company Nyrstar.

A spokeswoman for Nyrstar said the miners were in "fine spirits" after they were rescued.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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