Firefighters battled for 12 hours to quell a fire inside a nuclear-powered US Navy submarine in the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, officials said. 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,” said Rear Admiral Rick Breckenridge, commander of the submarine group that includes the USS Miami, in a statement on Thursday.
Firefighters “persevered in incredible heat and smoke conditions demonstrating exceptional courage and skill to gain control and extinguish the fire,” he said.
Bryant Fuller, commander of the shipyard, said the ship’s reactor was not affected.
“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 since it arrived at the shipyard for maintenance in March, Breckenridge said. It was scheduled to be there until fall 2013.
Officials vented smoke and noxious fumes from the vessel on Thursday so they could get inside to assess the damage, the Associated Press reported.
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.
“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,” he said.
The shipyard is located in the town of Kittery, Maine.
Most of the destruction occurred in the crew’s living area, as well as command and control areas, and the torpedo room, Breckenridge said. He also said no weapons were on board.
According to Fuller, the fire began at about 5:40 p.m. on Wednesday. Kittery Police Chief Paul Callaghan said it was not put out until 5:45 a.m. on Thursday.
The nuclear-powered vessel, which is 362 feet long, was commissioned in 1990, according to the Navy’s Vessel Register.
The cause of the fire is being investigated.
‘‘The duration of the fire suggests extensive damage that could render the vessel useless. These submarines were designed decades ago.
“So they’re no longer state of the art,’’ Loren Thompson, defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, told AP. ‘‘If this vessel returns to service, I will be amazed.’’
Alli Knothe can be reached at email@example.com.