Nuclear submarine, USS Miami, catches fire in Portsmouth Naval Shipyard; seven minor injuries reported

Smoke rose from the dry dock as firefighters responded to the fire on the USS Miami.
Smoke rose from the dry dock as firefighters responded to the fire on the USS Miami. –Ionna Raptis/The Herald/AP

Firefighters battled for 12 hours to quell a fire inside a nuclear-powered US Navy submarine in the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, officials said today. Seven people, including five firefighters, sustained minor injuries.

“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,’’ Rear Admiral Rick Breckenridge, commander of the submarine group that includes the USS Miami, said today in a statement.

Officials vented smoke and noxious fumes from the vessel today so they could get inside to assess the damage, the Associated Press reported.

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A fire department dispatcher said residents were not affected.

Breckenridge said the fire aboard the Miami was out by Thursday morning and the shipyard was open as usual. He said the injured were three shipyard firefighters, two civilian firefighters, and two crew members.

In a Wednesday night news conference, Bryant Fuller, commander of the shipyard, said the facility’s gates remained open.

“We are now moving forward with recovery actions,’’ Breckenridge said. “The shipyard remains open for normal business and the workforce will report to work as scheduled.’’

The shipyard is located in the town of Kittery, Maine.

“The fire was located in the forward part of the ship,’’ Fuller said. “The ship’s reactor was not operating at the time and is in the other end of the ship and therefore not affected.’’

The vessel’s reactor has been shut down for more than 2 months, Breckenridge said. He did not explain why.

The AP also reported that the vessel has a crew of 13 and 120 enlisted personnel. It arrived at the shipyard on March 1 to undergo maintenance work.

Most of the destruction occurred in the crew’s living area, as well as command and control areas, Breckenridge said.

The fire began at about 5:40 p.m. Wednesday, he reported. Kittery Police Chief Paul Callaghan said it was not put out until 5:45 a.m. today.

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Fuller said no weapons were on board.

According to the Navy’s Vessel Register, the vessel, which bears the hull number SSN-755, was commissioned in 1990, is 362 feet long, and is nuclear-powered.

The cause of the fire is being investigated.

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