Vacuum Cleaner Sparked $400M Naval Shipyard Fire
Officials at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard released initial findings June 6 in the case of the recent fire onboard the US Navy’s Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Miami (SSN 755).
The shipyard responded to a fire onboard Miami, May 23. The fire was extinguished by 3:30 a.m. Thursday the next day, by the ship’s crew, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard fire department personnel and the significant efforts of a large number of local and out of state fire departments.
The fire impacted the forward compartment of the submarine which includes crew living, command and control spaces and torpedo room. Miami’s nuclear propulsion spaces were not affected by the fire. The ship’s nuclear propulsion plant was not operating at the time and the plant had been shut down for over two months. Nuclear propulsion spaces were isolated from the forward compartment fire early and spaces remained habitable, manned and in a safe and stable condition throughout the entire event. There were no torpedoes or other weapons on-board the submarine.
The Navy is conducting formal Judge Advocate General Manual (JAGMAN) and safety investigations to address lessons learned, and corrective actions to preclude recurrence. These investigations are still on-going and initial reports of their conclusions and recommendations are expected in the next two weeks.
Preliminary findings indicate the fire started in a vacuum cleaner used to clean worksites at end of shift, and stored in an unoccupied space. Specific details as to the cause and subsequent damage assessment are still being evaluated as part of on-going investigations and will be released at a later date.
Last week, the shipyard’s workforce was authorized to return to work in the forward compartment to begin cleanup and support damage assessment as well as to continue work in other areas throughout the ship. Since that time, the first phase of the clean-up process, which included dewatering the ship and installation of temporary services (i.e. lighting, staging, etc.), has been completed. For the next phase, detailed cleaning, the Navy is pursuing contracted cleaning services which are expected to be awarded later this week.
The Navy has developed an initial rough repair cost estimate of $400 million, plus approximately 10 percent for the secondary effects (such as disruption to other planned work across all Naval Shipyards, and the potential need to contract work to the private sector). This estimate was developed so that funding can be identified to support the repairs, which would be accomplished at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. This estimate will be refined as more data is gathered and testing completed.
Navy engineers are conducting a full technical assessment including internal and external hull surveys and damage assessments to develop a detailed cost estimate to restore the forward end compartment.
Portsmouth Naval Shipyard remains a vital element of the Navy’s submarine maintenance industrial base. The men and women of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command, are committed to maximizing the material readiness of the fleet by delivering on-time, affordable quality, safely achieved.
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