KITTERY, Maine — The U.S. Navy is investigating the cause of a small fire that broke out at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard over the weekend.
The fire erupted Saturday, June 16, outside the USS Miami (SSN 755), the same nuclear submarine ravaged by flames last month in a separate incident.
A shipyard worker used a fire extinguisher to put out Saturday’s fire, which was reported at approximately 7:13 p.m. It was already extinguished when shipyard firefighters arrived on scene, according to information provided Monday by a shipyard spokeswoman.
No one was injured during the episode.
The Miami’s nuclear reactor was never in any danger and no radioactive material was involved, according to the shipyard’s announcement.
Last month, more than 100 firefighters traveled to Kittery to help combat a separate fire that broke out inside the Miami. The May 23 fire spread through the forward area of the submarine and continued to burn for more than 10 hours before it was extinguished.
Investigators believe the fire was started by a “heat source” that was sucked into a shop vacuum, igniting the debris within.
Seven people suffered minor injuries while helping to push back flames inside the cramped quarters of the ship.
The Navy has approximated the damage at $400 million, plus another $40 million for so-called “secondary effects,” such as disruption to other planned work across all Navy shipyards and the potential need to hire private contractors.
Navy engineers are still conducting a thorough damage assessment of the submarine, including surveying the interior and exterior of the hull.
Built for $900 million, the ship was scheduled to remain in service for another nine or so years. It is among the older boats in a fleet of about 54 U.S. attack submarines, which are used to launch missiles, gather intelligence and support other Navy vessels.
Navy officials have indicated the Miami can be salvaged, but have not decided whether to carry out the costly repairs.
The Navy has launched separate Judge Advocate General Manual and safety investigations and intends to focus those efforts on “lessons learned” that could prevent a similar fire in the future, according to information provided last month by the Navy. Those investigations were expected to yield initial conclusions and recommendations this month.
Shipyard representatives could not be reached for comment on the status of the investigation Monday.
The Miami arrived at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for a scheduled 20-month overhaul on March 1. The submarine’s nuclear plant had been powered down for two months prior to the fire, and the unit was not operating when the fire broke out, naval officials said in May.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
© 2012 Foster’s Daily Democrat (Dover, N.H.)
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