10-Hour Blaze Aboard USS Miami (updated)

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.”

  • Musson

    It sounds like the regular crew was not aboard at the time of the fire. And, the dry dock crew was not really trained or equiped for this kind of problem.

    I cringe when I wonder what would have happened if the fire had started in the nuclear propulsion area?

    • NotAsBlindAsYou

      Just talked with a Sub Buddy of mine and he told me that they had two incidents of fire on his last stint underwater. He thought he was going to die this deployment and is thankful to be out of the service, I wonder how often these ‘minor’ fires happen on our subs?

  • Sgt_Buffy

    Same as with the Eglin foam party, it will come down to human error. All I can find is that it was in for routine maintenance as well as some system upgrades.

    • tiger

      Well The Navy has fired 10 CO’s this year so far. Time for number 11?

  • DC2 Jennings

    this could have been started from welding without a fire watch to any other number of reasons. The fact they were asking for AFFF tells me the fire was not electrically related and electrical fires do not take 10 hours to put out. I know nothing about the layout of the 688 boats and their machinery spaces but that fire must have been pretty intense.

    and i wouldn’t doubt, given the fact that this is a 688 boat, that they take this sub directly to decommissioning instead of repairing.


    • Cosmo

      Except that they NEVER do hotwork on subs without a fire watch!
      Even in shipyard, even without weapons on board.

      What is ironic is that, had they been at sea it is likely the fire would have been spotted in it’s initial stages and contained more quickly.
      In the shipyard, most of the crew are berthed in the barracks and usually only duty section are on board during the night, so there’s less eyes/ears/noses to detect a problem.

  • sjbauske

    I was the sonar CPO on the Miami until I retired in 2009. The shipyard crew and the underway crew are the same… US nuclear subs do not have crews that rotate out for maintence periods. Most of the E-6 and below from my time on board is still there (sea shore rotation for e-6 and below is 5/5.5 years to 3 years) and they where a great bunch. More than likely what happened was a welding spark started something on fire, then the heat climbed (temps in enclosed space fire frequently reach 700 to 900 degrees) and some other material started on fire, or a High pressure air / O2 line feed the fire. Could have been a pro to but not for that long.

    • Nana D

      Thanks for such a great inside view, my grandson is currently assigned to the Miami he is a ST just out of A school in March.

  • Prodozul

    She was getting ready for Urban Beach weekend.

    But in all seriousness great work on keeping the fire contained!

  • Nicky

    I dread to see how much this is going to cost the taxpayers. Though in the end someone’s going to be losing their jobs over this

  • BoomerEngineer

    Bet this sub will go straight to DE-COM now… not worth fixing a 688.

    • blight_

      Even a 688i?

      They’ll probably put it into reserve as the cheapest short term solution. Either money arrives to fix or it doesn’t, or a new class of submarine deploys.

  • Anomymous

    I like how any mention of the safety of the crew is 7 paragraphs in – after the damage reports.

    Stay classy, Rear Admiral Rick Breckenridge.

  • Lance

    If a fire aboard ship is bad a fire on a sub is catastrophic. Im glad no one died during the blaze. I hope they can fix the Miami and get here back to sea soon.

  • Oscar

    There are a couple of USCG ships a few berths away that had plenty of AFFF ( I just PCS’d from the Reliance). Why did they wait for a truck from Boston when there were at least 500 gallons of the concentrate right there?

  • Pat

    Just becasue it took 10 hours to put the fire out doesn’t mean that the whole boat was on fire. It could have been a persistent fire that spread to spaces where it was hard to easily put it out. Fires can reignite even though initially suspected to be put out. But we shall see.

    • tiger

      That is more than enough time to make the boat a write off. From smoke, heat, water damage alone in the forward part of the boat are enough.

      • blight_

        The labor costs of stripping the boat down to make repairs from stem to stern would be pretty invasive. Hard to say if the damage was confined to parts of the ship that could be cut loose and grafted…but to what?

        Maybe they’ll keep parts of the ship for training, just like those old aircraft airports keep for fire training.

        • FormerDirtDart

          One potential problem with grafting parts/sections from decommissioned 688 boats is that the Miami is a 688i, which is a very different boat. The 688i’s have VLS tubes, and their diving planes are on the bow, as opposed to the sail on he 688s, and no doubt, some significant structural changes. While the Flight II 688’s have VLS tube, none of those have been decommissioned either.

  • Nicky

    Now’s a good time to fix her up and see if Canada and Australia are interested in a couple of Used 688I subs. All they have to do is pay us to fix it up and refit & refuel her.

    • blight_

      …pretty sure their fiscal situations do not call for aging SSN’s with limited land attack capability.

      There’s always Taiwan.

  • Thomas McCoy

    When you take the oath you never know where it’s going to take you.To hell or heaven at any given moment. Thanks you, our All American Angel Heros.

  • FormerDirtDart

    A bit more info:
    Nuclear Sub May Have to Be Scrapped After Fire http://www.military.com/daily-news/2012/05/25/nuc

    • blight_

      So it goes. Scrapped probably means that everything save-worthy will go into a warehouse and be recycled for other ships in the fleet?

  • curtis

    I’m glad there were no deaths or reactor damage. I hope the navy takes time to learn some dockside fire fighting lessons.

  • Arthur

    Sure are a lot of wannabes here! As an ex US Navy submarine reactor operator on SSN660, SSN 650, and SSBN731G, I gotta say: most of you people here don’t know shinola about fighting a fire on a submarine. Nor do you have a fueling clue about how PSNSY can rebuild the internals quicker than you can say DINK! Nor do you have a clue about where the duty section was temporarily staying when the fire broke out…. And…. you will never know until you join the Navy and get your dolphins.

    • NOAA

      All very valid statements concerning PSNSY and where the Crew might have been during the incident. However you lump everybody into the same catagory when you call them Wannabes. Submarine Reactor Operators are not the ONLY People to earn and wear the Dolphins! I think the former Sonar CPO above has his Dolphins at home with him just like you!

    • Guest

      I severed on SSN 674 SSBN 731g and then SSN722. when was you on the bama

    • Tony

      Just a bunch of nubs speculating on things they know nothing about

      • sjbauske

        Some of us nubs did 20 plus years(16 at sea) on 4 different classes of nuclear submarines. We know a bit of what we are talking about.. a lot of people are speculating about what the plan to do with the Miami. ( “the fighting double nickle” as Captain Bryant used to call it) it will all come down to remaining fullnpower hours on the reactor….. not sure what the status is now but when I retired off it we where riding it rough and putting her away wet and the remain hours where getting low. Not sure if dmp was to include refuel but core.life will deturmine final fate. 30s ylexpected and she commissioned in 83… makes 2013 that time.

  • George F.

    Dumb question probably but indulge me; if you shut down a sub compartment on fire, won’t the lack of oxygen eventually put the fire out?

    • sjbauske

      Not in dry dock lots of forced ventalation for welding and all hatches open… plus any hull cuts for large modifications and work.

      • George F.

        right, thanks

  • Old Navy

    I think the em. diesel is located in the forward compartment. A bravo fire, fuel oil, causers a lot of black smoke. There are numerous cable runs, etc. also that would contribute fuel to the fire. Let’s stop second guessing and thank God there were no bad injuries or death.

    MMCS(SS)(SW) USN Ret.

  • Spc.Poole

    This artical fails to say that the foam truck from Bostan was called up as a back to the the crew and foam trucks that were sent from South Portland. Im a Firefighter in the same county as York. I can tell you that with no real way to get the heat out a fire like that is very manpower intensive. Even with bunkers on you fell the heat and it takes a lot out of you.

  • jts

    lots of non-submariners on here making really dumb comments! I highly doubt a small fire would justify decom for this boat.
    Maybe this was a fire in A-gang’s spaces in the diesel room. It’s hard to get down into and fight fires down there. There are tons of tight spaces that get even more cramped when in the shipyards becase of all the extra systems that get put in place.

    it’s a community and im glad none of these guys got really hurt. fires on a sub are dangerous as hell and just as scary, even when in port.
    MM2(SS) nuclear – out since ’07

  • JC Arreola

    My praise goes to the watches down below who quickly shut VH-6 (?). As a former AEF/BDW I remember all those drills requiring securing that valve locally and remotely. This event only goes to show that a well trained AEF/AOW/BDW can really make a difference.

  • JC Arreola

    My praise goes to the watches down below who quickly shut VH-6 (?). This event only goes to show that a well trained AEF/AOW/BDW can really make a difference.

  • JC Arreola

    My praise goes to the watches below. This event only goes to show that a well trained AEF/AOW/BDW can really make a difference.

  • steve

    A ten hour fight fight in any Submarine proves one, insufficient equipment, insufficient chemicals being used, or this is a new ball game and it’s back to the drawing board to find better equipment and BETTER chemicals in which to fight this type of fire???? Something sure is VERY questionable, and maybe not for public print/exposure???

    • bubblehead

      Dry dock. Was the trim system secured? We’re there just hoses coming down the hatch from the pier? Might not have had the usual fire main / hoses. And fire watches can fall asleep or wander off. – mt2(ss)

  • passingby

    probably just a small accident due to a big BBQ party.

    hope the fire didn’t burn the sausages and the steaks.

  • Guest

    It appears that they should have kept Halon (a CFC) legal for use aboard aircraft and ships, especially since the concerns about the ozone hole, etc. were found to be natural in origin.

  • Roland

    The computers probably have been left operational while it over heat the mainframe or there is a saboteur.

    • cortes

      Roland…. what’s your rate and name? I’ve been looking for a Richard Roland since our first time in groton sub school in 1999!!!

  • kenny IC2 (SS)

    I spent 7 years on sub in the 80s I spent a little time on her. I hope it will be not repaired as I am sure her HY 80 hull was damaged in the fire . Once the hull is heated and cooled down like from a fire. Best thing at this point is to scrap her send the melted hull to china!!!

  • Prodozul

    It was arson. A civilian worker wanted to get out of work early due to anxiety and medication. So he set the sub on fire from the inside and outside.