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Thread: Fire onboard USS Miami (SSN-755) at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery, Maine

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    Fire onboard USS Miami (SSN-755) at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery, Maine

    see story below


    Nuclear sub burns at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard; at least six hurt

    By Joey Cresta
    May 23, 2012 7:45 PM

    KITTERY, Maine — A fire on a $900 million nuclear submarine stationed at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard caused injuries to six people and was still burning early this morning.

    The cause of the fire in the nuclear-powered USS Miami attack submarine remained unknown as of an 11:30 p.m. news conference, said Capt. Bryant Fuller, commander of the shipyard.

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    Shipyard firefighters were first called to the dry docks at 5:41 p.m. The fire started in the forward compartment, which Fuller said consists of primarily living quarters and command and control spaces. All nonessential personnel were ordered to evacuate, officials said.

    Just after 10 p.m., the fire aboard the submarine, docked at Dry Dock 2, went to four alarms and fire dispatchers were describing the fire as “moderate.”

    Fuller said that the ship’s reactor was not operating at the time of the fire and remained in a safe and stable condition throughout the event. There were no weapons aboard, he said. Kittery Police Chief Paul Callaghan said the shipyard made no requests for police to evacuate residents in the area and there was no danger to the community.

    According to Fuller, there were six reported injuries, including one firefighter who suffered from heat exhaustion. “He is conscious and alert,” Fuller said.

    The shipyard commander said that due to the heat created from the fire, steam linked to the firefighting effort was emitting from the vessel.

    All personnel were accounted for and those who were injured were either treated at the scene or taken to the hospital. Ambulances from multiple Seacoast fire departments arrived and departed from the shipyard throughout the night.

    “We have received firefighter assistance from numerous Seacoast communities and we appreciate the tremendous support,” Fuller said.

    Responding agencies included an engine and foam trailer from Logan International Airport in Boston, Mass. According to the Boston Sparks Association, a fire buff club founded in 1938, an engine from the submarine base in Groton, Conn., was also responding. Apparatus from Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts arrived shortly after 11 p.m.

    Residents in some parts of Kittery reported a smell of burning plastic in the air, and sirens from fire apparatus were heard throughout the night.

    Smoke and steam continued to billow from the shipyard early into today and was visible from areas such as Peirce Island in Portsmouth, N.H., and the Piscataqua River Bridge. Peirce Island attracted many people eager to get a view of the fire until police officers shut it down to the public, citing safety concerns.

    The shipyard gates remained open late Wednesday night, and Fuller said workers should prepare to report to their jobs as normal in the morning. More information will be released as it becomes available, he said.
    “A full investigation will be conducted,” he said, noting that local, state and federal officials were notified and that Maine and New Hampshire officials were in the shipyard command center.

    The USS Miami (SSN 755) and its crew of 13 officers and 120 enlisted personnel arrived at the Navy Yard on March 1 to undergo maintenance work and system upgrades.

    It is the third vessel named for the city of Miami and the fifth “improved” Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered submarine, according to the Navy. The Miami was commissioned June 30, 1990, and its home port is Groton, Conn.

    The submarine’s commanding officer is Cmdr. Roger E. Meyer, who assumed command Sept. 20, 2010. The Miami’s host community is Sanford.

    According to U.S. Navy specifications, the ship weighs in at 7,102 tons submerged, is 360 feet long and can travel up to 32 knots while submerged. The Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation in Groton, Conn., built the submarine, which was first launched Nov. 12, 1988. The single-propeller ship features a single nuclear reactor propulsion system. It carries an armament of Tomahawk missiles and Harpoon missiles and has the capacity to lay mines.

    Tom Clancy’s non-fiction book, “Submarine: A guided tour inside a nuclear warship,” published in 1993, was based on the USS Miami.

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    Senior Contributor Doktor's Avatar
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    So it's not happening only to Russians?

    Hope the sailors will recover soon.
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    To make mistakes is human. To blame someone else for your mistake, is strategic.

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    Good lord, imagine if this had happened at sea.

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    Some more news on this:

    Teams unable to assess damage aboard USS Miami

    (NECN: Scot Yount, Kittery, Maine) - "A lot more smoke was coming out of the boat," said Glenn Whitehouse, who was one of the first firefighters on scene in what could have been a disaster.

    By late morning, firefighters were still mopping up as the Navy is set to ventilate the nuclear submarine to get inside to assess the damage.

    The fire broke out in the forward compartment of the Los Angeles class attack submarine U.S.S. Miami just before 6 Wednesday night.

    "I went in with the guys and you know, absolutely pitch black," said Whitehouse.

    Firefighters rushed aboard the ship which is in dry-dock for maintenance.

    More than 100 firefighters attacked the blaze inside the sub, just eight at the time.

    "Once we started making headway and ran out of air, they immediately evacuated and another crew went down," said Whitehouse.

    Darkness, water and thick acrid smoke filled the tiny passageways.

    "Hot, very hot, obviously the submarine is metal and that's why it holds the heat in there, and that's why the guys were taking a beating," said firefighter Dan Tice.

    Seven people suffered minor injuries, two civilian firefighters among them.

    "To see the smoke, to smell it, a toxic smelling smoke, and also not to know if there was potential for nuclear involvement," said Democratic Congresswoman Chellie Pingree who represents the 1st congressional district of Maine.

    Now the investigation begins into what caused the fire.

    Rear Admiral Richard Breckenridge said the efforts of the fire fighters including local assisting towns were heroic.

    The ship's reactor has been shut down for two months according to the Navy but that doesn't mean there wasn't danger.

    "Yes, there is still nuclear fuel onboard, in the reactor, but the reactor is in a complete shutdown condition," said Rear Admiral Richard Breckenridge who praised the firefighters.

    Breckenridge says that fuel and its reactor are aft in the sub and were not affected in any way by the fire, but he couldn't say how much nuclear fuel is onboard the U.S.S. Miami which has been in service since 1990.

    "A quick response early on physically isolated any potential of this fire from spreading to the propulsion spaces," said Breckenridge.

    The damaged areas included crew living command and control spaces, as well as a torpedo area, but no weapons were aboard the Miami at the time of the fire according to Naval Officers.


    Navy begins assessing fire-damaged sub

    KITTERY, Maine (AP) — Those who have spent time on Navy submarines will tell you that few combustible materials are aboard. But don't tell that to the firefighters who rushed to the USS Miami when a blaze swept through the billion-dollar nuclear-powered submarine.

    "It's like going into a chimney," said Portsmouth Naval Shipyard firefighter David Funk, who described insulation and wiring fueling a smoky fire that became hot enough for aluminum to burst into flames.

    On Friday, two days after the blaze began, workers at the shipyard finished pumping fresh air into the fire-damaged sub, allowing Navy investigators to enter to begin the first damage assessment. It remains to be seen whether the submarine can be salvaged.

    U.S. Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, both members of the Armed Services Committee, visited the shipyard Friday and met with its commander. They thanked a small contingent of firefighters, including Funk, who battled the blaze as the sub's metal hull trapped the heat inside.

    Three Navy teams were dispatched to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard to investigate the incident, the senators told reporters.

    The blaze started early Wednesday night at the shipyard where the sub was being overhauled. A handful of shipyard workers were in the forward compartments where the fire began while the sub was in a dry dock, Collins said.

    The fire wasn't extinguished until the next morning. More than 100 firefighters responded from more than a dozen agencies as far away as Groton, Conn., and South Portland.

    Eric Wertheim, a U.S. Naval Institute author, characterized the USS Miami fire as a financial disaster, with the potential loss of a submarine that cost $900 million to build, but not a true disaster like the losses of the USS Scorpion and Thresher, nuclear subs that sank during peacetime with a loss of their crews.

    "It's important to put it into perspective," Wertheim said. "It could've been a lot worse."

    The USS Miami fire damaged the torpedo room, crew quarters and command and control areas in the front of the submarine, but the nuclear propulsion components at the back of the sub weren't harmed.

    One defense analyst suggested that the repairs would be so costly that the 22-year-old sub would be scrapped, a scenario that would be similar to the USS Bonefish, a diesel-electric sub decommissioned and scrapped after a fire at sea in 1988.

    Vice Adm. Kevin M. McCoy, commander of the Naval Sea Systems Command, told U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe that he's hopeful that the ship can be repaired. He said that many vital components escaped damage because they had been removed for the 20-month overhaul and that salvage parts are available from previously decommissioned Los Angeles-class subs.

    "He said, 'We've built submarines, so we can fix them as well,'" said Snowe, who also toured the shipyard Friday.

    The intensity of the fire, the lack of lighting, the thick smoke and the metal hull that turned the submarine into an oven all contributed to a difficult blaze for firefighters to extinguish.

    Unlike a house fire, there was no way to vent the fire by knocking out windows or using axes to create an opening, and all the smoke billowed from a small number of hatches that firefighters had to use to enter the sub.

    "It was pretty intense, a lot of heat, a lot of smoke," Funk said. "It's a steel-hulled vessel. It's basically like going into a chimney into a black void that's superheated and trying to find the seat of the fire and get it put out."

    The blaze was so blistering hot that a firefighter could only remain in place for minutes before being replaced by another firefighter, a leap-frogging technique that continued throughout the night until firefighters got the stubborn fire under control.

    All told, the firefighters rotated 75 times to battle the fire, using 3 million gallons of water, nearly filling some compartments, Snowe said.

    Two members of Funk's fire department were hurt. One had a broken foot, and another had a back injury, he said.

    Funk, who left his post at the shipyard on Friday for the first time since the fire started, said he's thankful it wasn't worse.

    "It's a miracle that nobody got hurt bad," he said. "Frankly, it's a miracle that nobody got killed."
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    Defense ProfessionalSenior Contributor tbm3fan's Avatar
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    So a hand full of shipyard workers were in the sub's forward compartments at the time the fire started. Spontaneous combustion or worker error?

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    No room to move.....

    "More than 100 firefighters attacked the blaze inside the sub, just eight at the time."

    A place that I would not choose to be, so a very special salute to those who would enter the small confines of a submarine to battle a blaze.

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    I heard on the news today they may have to scrap her...too badly damaged.
    “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
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    Quote Originally Posted by Albany Rifles View Post
    I heard on the news today they may have to scrap her...too badly damaged.
    In Miami's favor for rebuilding, she's a 688I and she really could not have picked a better spot for this disaster: Not merely in a submarine shipyard but also in drydock and stripped of a lot of her high-dollar equipment.

    And as VADM McCoy pointed out, there are a lot of decommissioned 688's that they can strip the living daylights out of to refit Miami.

    Not in her favor, she's no spring chicken at 22 years old, although hardly elderly.
    The rebuilding cost might be prohibitive given her age and the life remaining in her uranium core.

    I have a feeling if anything dooms her to an early scrapping, it'll be her remaining core life. If she's due for a refueling in the near-future she's probably doomed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Albany Rifles View Post
    I heard on the news today they may have to scrap her...too badly damaged.
    I doubt Miami will be scrapped. If damage in the forward section is so bad that its not worth repairing, then there is also the possibility that SSN-755 may spend the remainder of her time at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard being decontaminated, stripped, and refit to become a moored training ship (MTS-755), for eventual use at the Naval Nuclear Power School at NWS Charleston in Goose Creek, SC. That portion of the sub supposedly remained habitable.
    Last edited by JRT; 26 May 12, at 19:34.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JRT View Post
    I doubt Miami will be scrapped. If damage in the forward section is so bad that its not worth repairing, then there is also the possibility that SSN-755 may spend the remainder of her time at Portsmouth being decontaminated, stripped, and refit to become a moored training ship (MTS-755), for eventual use at the Naval Nuclear Power School at NWS Charleston in Goose Creek, SC. That portion of the sub supposedly remained habitable.
    The instructors at NPTU all seem to think this is the most likely outcome regardless of the extent of damage.
    "Nature abhors a moron." - H.L. Mencken

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    Quote Originally Posted by JRT View Post
    I doubt Miami will be scrapped. If damage in the forward section is so bad that its not worth repairing, then there is also the possibility that SSN-755 may spend the remainder of her time at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard being decontaminated, stripped, and refit to become a moored training ship (MTS-755), for eventual use at the Naval Nuclear Power School at NWS Charleston in Goose Creek, SC. That portion of the sub supposedly remained habitable.

    Well to an Infantryman, that looks like scrapping!
    “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
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    Tour a Submarine anyone????

    Quote Originally Posted by Albany Rifles View Post
    Well to an Infantryman, that looks like scrapping!
    MTS could become a maximum tour ship extrodinaire.....

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    Look at the bright side of this. 1) nobody dead., 2)reactor off and 3) no weapons aboard outside of the probable usual armory.

    It could have been much worse, the only thing it could damage was itself not the surrounding area or worse.
    Fortitude.....The strength to persist...The courage to endure.

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    Those who have spent time on Navy submarines will tell you that few combustible materials are aboard. But don't tell that to the firefighters who rushed to the USS Miami when a blaze swept through the billion-dollar nuclear-powered submarine.
    Whoever wrote that bit doesn't really understand submarines....

    As for the final fate of the Miami, could all depend on what the admirals and the bean counters say. All the possibilities mentioned above are all quite possible.

    1. New forward hull: They did it with the San Francisco, why not the Miami?

    2. Decom and scrapping: They did it for the Port Royal.

    3. MTS: Possibly. The plants they have now for training are old designs and a bit long in the tooth, but they are functional and they are safe. I am not certain the navy has need of a fourth training platform.
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    Quote Originally Posted by maximusslade View Post
    Whoever wrote that bit doesn't really understand submarines....

    As for the final fate of the Miami, could all depend on what the admirals and the bean counters say. All the possibilities mentioned above are all quite possible.

    1. New forward hull: They did it with the San Francisco, why not the Miami?

    2. Decom and scrapping: They did it for the Port Royal.

    3. MTS: Possibly. The plants they have now for training are old designs and a bit long in the tooth, but they are functional and they are safe. I am not certain the navy has need of a fourth training platform.
    1. The problem with that is the San Francisco got the front end of the Honolulu, a slightly newer 688 than the San Francisco. The Miami is a 688i and none of them have been decommissioned. So the newest front end available would be from the Salt Lake City, a regular 688. It's a downgrade to put the SLC's front end on the Miami, assuming that swap is compatible, not to mention, their forward dive planes are in different places and that would have to be worked out.

    2. Could happen, the repairs seem to have come in cheaper than initial estimates though. Plus, the Memphis is still in Portsmouth and could be used for cheap spare parts.

    3. San Francisco and LaJolla are already scheduled to replace those old boomers by the end of the decade. Sure the Miami could bump one of them, but it's not really needed for this role.

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