A second, “small” fire broke out at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on Saturday night, in the drydock where the fire-ravaged USS Miami is under repair, the shipyard’s public affairs office announced at noon today. There was no new damage to the Miami itself, and in fact a quick-thinking shipyard employee put out the blaze with a fire extinguisher before firefighters arrived.
That’s a small mercy in the ongoing agony of the Miami. The nuclear-powered attack submarine suffered $400 to $500 million of damage — about a quarter of the $2 billion cost of a brand new sub — in a fire that broke out onboard on May 22nd. The disaster, which injured seven people, was traced to a vacuum cleaner. Spending on new submarines is popular both in the House and in the Senate, with increased production of Virginia-class submarines likely to pass in this year’s spending bills, but Congress is unlikely to look kindly on having to pour unprogrammed repair money into one of its existing boats because someone got careless.
Perhaps the Navy could give a medal to whomever it was that put out this blaze so quickly. And Navy public affairs folks deserve the homefront equivalent of a Purple Heart for opening up about the ongoing problems and taking the hit instead of following the sea service’s long-standing tradition of compulsive secrecy.
An investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing.