Submarine fire won’t push back planned dive

Navy planning to submerge HMCS VIctoria by end of September

A fire that recently broke out on the Royal Canadian Navy’s flagship submarine at CFB Esquimalt, won’t sink the navy’s plans to submerge the boat by the end of September.

“We’re going to go ahead as scheduled,” said Cmdr. Christopher Ellis, captain of HMCS Victoria. “It’s the opportunity for the crew to actually come together and sail onboard the submarine.”

Grey smoke was seen coming out the top of Victoria’s communications mast on Sept. 6 at 10:15 a.m. during a routine radiation hazard survey the vessel was undergoing at the time.

The submarine was brought to emergency stations, and at least six submariners were evacuated from the vessel, moored at a CFB Esquimalt jetty, said Ellis, adding there were no injuries in the incident.

The high-tech mast, which allows the crew to transmit data and communicate with aircraft or ships, as well as shore authorities, will soon be removed and examined for damage, said navy Capt. Don Smith, commanding officer of Fleet Maintenance Facility at HMC Dockyard.

A technical investigation will soon be launched to assess the extent of the damage and the cause of the fire once a team is selected, said Smith, whose workers have spent the past five years improving Victoria and preparing her for weaponization.

It’s too soon to tell how long the investigation will take, and what the cost of repairs will be.

“It’s one of the things we watch in this, but a lot of the repairs will be conducted using material we have in our supply system,” Smith said.

Despite receiving an initial damage assessment Wednesday morning, Smith said it would be premature to speculate whether the source of the fire was electrical.

“The very good news is the damage is external to the hull of the submarine, and it’s not the full mast. It’s only portions of it,” said Smith, adding the boat’s watertight integrity has not been compromised.

The submarine will be tugged over to Department of National Defence property in Colwood, and submerged a number of times over a period of three to six days by the end of September, said Ellis.

Victoria will disappear in the depths of Esquimalt Harbour – the first time since it was taken out of the water for repairs and upgrades five years ago. It came out of the shop in April.

The 48-member submariner crew and other civilian and military technical experts will put Victoria through a series of tests to gauge how well its systems are working underwater. The plan is to sail her out to the Strait of Juan de Fuca for sea trials before year’s end.