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7 hurt fighting fire on nuclear submarine; cause of blaze unknown

May 24, 2012|By Michael Muskal

Seven people were injured while fighting a blaze aboard a nuclear-powered submarine being overhauled at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine, Navy officials said Thursday.

The fire aboard the USS Miami SSN 755 began at 5:41 p.m. Wednesday and was declared out at 6:45 a.m. Thursday, a base spokeswoman said by telephone. The cause of the fire is under investigation, she said.

The shipyard remains open, according to a statement attributed to Rear Adm. Richard Breckenridge, commander of Submarine Group Two. Breckenridge briefed the media Thursday morning and said three shipyard firefighters, two civilian firefighters and two crew members sustained minor injuries in fighting the fire. All were treated and released.

“Their efforts clearly minimized the severity of this event,” he told reporters. Fighting the fire was hampered by the high heat and large volume of smoke in the submarine’s contained spaces, he said.

Breckenridge told reporters the fire and “subsequent damage was confined to the forward compartment spaces only -- which includes crew living, command and control spaces, and the torpedo room. There were no torpedoes or other weapons on board the ship.”

The nuclear propulsion spaces were in another part of the ship and separate from the fire-damaged area, he said. The reactor was unaffected by the fire and has been shut down for months.

The Miami, technically an “improved” Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered submarine, arrived in Portsmouth on March 1 for maintenance and upgrades to several systems. The overhaul is expected to take 20 months, officials said.

The submarine had completed a five-month deployment “where the ship and crew conducted maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. Sixth Fleet area of responsibility,” according to the Portsmouth website. The Sixth Fleet is based in Italy and operates in the European and African areas.

The submarine has a crew of 13 officers and 120 enlisted personnel.

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michael.muskal@latimes.com

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