Firefighters praised for efforts in Maine shipyard blaze
KITTERY, Maine (WHDH) -- A fire on board a nuclear-powered submarine in a Maine shipyard has been extinguished. Seven people were injured in the blaze.
The Navy says the nuclear reactor was not affected.
Fire crews, including a team from Logan International Airport in Boston, responded Wednesday to the USS Miami SSN 755 at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery. The Nave deemed them heroes after fighting the difficult fire.
Firefighters described the ordeal.
"Zero visibility, smoke was right down to the ground. Hot -- very hot, obviously the submarine is metal so it just holds the heat in there," said Dan Tice, Naval Shipyard Fire Department.
"We got in this rhythm where we sent a crew down. We can only go from one hatch to working forward. Once we started headway and they ran out of air, they immediately evacuated. Another crew went down," said Assistant Chief Glenn Whitehouse, Naval Shipyard Fire Department.
“Their actions were almost beyond comprehension -- if you were to see that ship and try to understand the close, cramped quarters,” said Robert Mcaleer of the Maine Emergency Management Agency.
Two crew members and five firefighters were injured. They were treated and released from the hospital.
“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 firefighters to combat the blaze,” said Rick Breckenridge, commander of submarine group two.
The fire burned through the night before being put out in the early morning hours Thursday.
“The fire and subsequent damage was limited to the forward compartment spaces only, which includes crew living and command control spaces and the torpedo room. There were no weapons on board the ship,” said Breckenridge.
The USS Miami is based in Connecticut, but was at the shipyard for an overhaul, because of that the ship’s nuclear reactor was shut down. The reactor remained safe and stable during the fire.
Officials said the work of naval firefighters and the dozens of civilian firefighters from surrounding communities was exceptional.
“I want to emphasize that the heroic actions of the firefighter teams averted what could have been a much more severe situation,” said Breckenridge.
"By some estimates that’s a $900 million piece of equipment that we need back on-line. That’s part of our military force,” said Maine Representative Chellie Pingree.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.