A fireman walks off the U.S. nuclear submarine USS Miami the morning after an intense fire burned out the submarine's forward interior. (U.S. Navy)
A coordinated effort to review all aspects of the fire on the nuclear submarine Miami was established June 27.
Rear Adm. Terry Kraft, commander of the Naval Warfare Development Command, has been directed to put together a panel that “will review the ongoing investigations, findings, and any other information necessary to obtain a complete understanding of the event,” said Capt. Chris Sims, a spokesman for U.S. Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk, Va. “To do this, additional interviews may be conducted as well as additional documentation collected.”
The fire broke out May 23 as the attack submarine lay in a drydock at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine. Firefighters needed at least 10 hours to put out the fire, which burned out most of the submarine’s forward section.
The fire, the Navy said, started when hot welding slag in a vacuum cleaner caught fire when the implement was placed among some cleaning supplies and left unattended.
While the Navy claims the submarine’s nuclear reactor and propulsion system are intact, unofficial reports indicate severe damage forward of the amidships bulkhead, which separates the forward working and berthing spaces from the propulsion systems.
Navy leaders have vowed to repair the 22-year-old submarine — which already is scheduled to be taken out of service in 2020 — but no decision is expected until the investigations are complete.
Kraft, working under the overall direction of Adm. John Harvey, commander of Fleet Forces Command, is to head the effort “to review and consolidate all the reports associated with the Miami fire,” Sims said in a statement.
“They are also expected to identify causal factors that may run concurrently through the investigations and provide a detailed understanding that ensures that every step possible is taken to learn from this fire and that all involved are better prepared to prevent something similar in our future,” he added.
“The Navy is diligently investigating this incident from many different perspectives — from ship to shore, to maintenance and many other points in between,” Sims explained.
“Additionally, repairs will require overlapping involvement of multiple organizations to restore USS Miami to full service. The panel will assess if the correct organizations have been brought together to restore Miami as soon and completely as possible, and the panel will provide an independent repair planning and progress report to the fleet commander every 30 days.”
The effort will continue “as long as it takes to get the answers we need,” Sims said.
A final report is due to Fleet Forces Command 60 days after a signed command investigation is presented.