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May 24. 2012 12:19AM

Seven hurt as fire damages submarine in Kittery

Firefighters from at least three states battled a five-alarm blaze that broke out Wednesday aboard the nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Miami while in dry dock at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine,

At a press conference just after 6 a.m. Thursday, Rear Admiral Rick Breckenridge, Commander Submarine Group 2, said seven people, five firefighters and two crew members, were injured.

Some were treated at the scene while others were taken to local hospitals where they were treated and later released, he said.

Breckenridge did not indicate what caused the fire but said it started in the forward compartment of the submarine, where the living quarters, command and control center, and torpedo room are located. No weapons are on board and the reactor, located in the rear, has been shut down for two months, he said.

"The reactor was not operating and not affected," Breckenridge said.

Wednesday night, crews spent more than six hours fighting the fire that started at 5:40 p.m. and was still burning at midnight. A firefighter was evacuated for heat exhaustion, but was conscious and alert.

“While the fire is not out, the situation is improving,” shipyard spokesman Capt. Bryant Fuller said about 11:45 p.m. It was finally extinguished about 4 a.m. Thursday.

Shipyard officials said the fire posed no danger to the public and no public evacuations occurred.

The shipyard is open and operating as usual, Breckenridge said Thursday morning.

An investigation into the cause of the fire will be launched, Fuller said.

The nuclear reactor “remains in a safe and stable condition as it has been since this event occurred,” Fuller said.

All personnel have been accounted for, Fuller added.

Many Seacoast area fire departments responded to the fire. The shipyard is located across the Piscataqua River from Portsmouth. A special fire fighting team from Logan International Airport in Boston also was on scene.

The shipyard's gates remained open and workers will report to work this morning, Fuller said.

State and federal officials have been notified, Fuller said. Representatives from Maine and New Hampshire were in the command center while crews battled the blaze.

The USS Miami is a Los Angeles-Class attack submarine that was launched in 1988 and commissioned in 1990, according to NavSource.org. It is assigned to the U.S. Atlantic fleet.

The submarine has been in dry dock since March 1 for maintenance and upgrades.

Union Leader reporter Tim Buckland contributed to this report.


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