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10-Hour Blaze Aboard USS Miami (updated)

by John Reed on May 24, 2012

That’s right. A fire burned for 10-hours last night aboard the nuclear-powered Los Angeles class attack submarine, USS Miami, while she was in drydock at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Me.

All we know now is that seven people were hurt fighting the fire and that the blaze was contained to her forward spaces while the aft engineering spaces were sealed off and unaffected by the fire. Fire departments from tiny towns around the base responded but eventually, a foam truck from Boston’s Logan Airport — more than an hour away — had to be called in to extinguish the blaze.

From Portsmouth Patch:

The fire was reported at 5:41 p.m. Wednesday,and was extinguished about 10 hours later at 3:48 a.m. on Thursday, according to the shipyard. The nuclear propulsion spaces were physically isolated early in the event from the forward compartment fire and remained safe and stable throughout the event.

Capt. Bryant Fuller, the shipyard’s commander, said there were no weapons on board, and all personnel were accounted for.

Seven people were injured in the blaze, according to the shipyard, including three shipyard firefighters, two ship’s force crew members, and two civilian firefighters providing support. All seven were treated and released and were said to be doing well.

Fuller said firefighters from numerous Seacoast communities, including Portsmouth, Kittery, York and South Berwick, provided mutual aid. An engine and foam truck were requested from Logan Airport in Boston. State, local and federal authorities were also notified.

It’ll be interesting to see what that repair bill looks like.

The Miami, an improved LA class boat commissioned in 1990, arrived at the yard on March 1 for maintenance work. We’ll let you know if we hear anything about the cause of the fire.

UPDATE: Here’s the Navy’s official statement on the incident:

Statement from Rear Admiral Rick Breckenridge, Commander, of Submarine Group Two in Groton, Connecticut:“Late yesterday afternoon, USS MIAMI experienced a fire in the submarine’s forward compartment.“Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Fire Department and Ship’s force, along with mutual assistance from several other area fire departments, immediately responded and successfully extinguished the fire on USS MIAMI. I repeat, the fire is out.

“The fire and subsequent damage was limited to the forward compartment spaces only which includes crew living and command and control spaces. The nuclear propulsion spaces were physically isolated from the Forward Compartment early during initial response.

“The ship’s reactor has been shut down for over 2 months and remained in a safe and stable condition throughout the event. The propulsion spaces remained habitable and were continuously manned through the night.

“There were no weapons on board in the torpedo room.
The fire spread to spaces within the submarine that were difficult to access. The heat and smoke contained in these confined spaces made it challenging for fire-fighters to combat the blaze.

“I want to emphasize that the heroic actions of the firefighting teams averted what could have been a much more severe situation. As a result of their quick and effective response, the fire was contained and brought under control.

“We greatly appreciate the strong support received from our state and local partners who assisted us throughout this event.

“All of USS MIAMI’s crew and the personnel supporting work and recovery efforts on the submarine are accounted for.

“Seven people were injured during the fire-fighting response. However, their injuries were minor in nature. The injured personnel included three Portsmouth Naval Shipyard fire-fighters; two ships force crew members; and two civilian fire-fighters providing support. These personnel were either treated on-scene or transported to a local medical facility for further treatment and all have been released. So all injured personnel have been released and are in good shape. There were no casualties in this fire.

“Again, the response of the shipyard and the community fire-fighters has been exceptional. Their efforts clearly minimized the severity of the event. They immediately took actions to stabilize the situation, protect the public, and limit the impact to the environment.

“So we are now moving forward with recovery actions.
The shipyard remains open for normal business and the workforce will report to work as scheduled.
A full investigation has begun to determine the cause of the fire. We will continue to provide updates later today as more information becomes available.
For now I need to get back to my responsibilities in the command center.”

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