Typically Breathless Report Of Sub Non-Event
While I defer to drunknsubmrnr as the "blog of record" for all things Canadian submarine-related, I couldn't help but comment on the typical media response to the recent transformer fire on HMCS Windsor.
This story from The Toronto Star (will probably require registration soon; this version might last longer) tries its hardest to find parallels between this non-event and the tragedy on HMCS Chicoutimi last year, without much success. Some excerpts:
"The electrical blaze was isolated to a part of the air-conditioning system and snuffed out quickly. There were no injuries, and the ship has not been called back to port.
"Aspects of the fire and the navy's response to it were eerily similar to the tragedy that killed Lieut. Chris Saunders, 32, in October 2004, aboard the maiden voyage of HMCS Chicoutimi.
"Both blazes were caused by electrical problems. In the case of HMCS Chicoutimi, water flooded in from an open hatch and sloshed over power cables. That created an explosion that blew holes in the deck of the captain's cabin, sending smoke throughout the ship. The cause of Sunday's electrical fire that melted a transformer in the cooling system of HMCS Windsor is under investigation.
"The navy was sharply criticized for its management of the Chicoutimi crisis, particularly because it told the public everything was fine when in fact Chicoutimi was drifting without power in the Irish Sea with a critically injured sailor on board. This week, the navy waited more than 24 hours to notify the public of the blaze aboard HMCS Windsor, and could not be reached to comment on questions such as where Windsor was when the crisis occurred, or how it has affected ship operations."
I'm sorry, but a transformer fire that's quickly extinguished is one of the biggest non-events there is. As to how it affected ship operations, the Canadian Navy stated this explicitly in their news release (released the day before the story above):
"Yesterday morning while operating at sea, the crew of HMCS Windsor was brought to ‘emergency stations’ to react to the melting of a transformer which caused the presence of white smoke and the smell of electrical burning in the forward part of the engine room of the submarine. No injuries were sustained in the incident and the boat remains at sea and fully operational.
"As a result of the smoke, and as part of the standard response to a potential fire, the ship’s two attack teams were rapidly assembled and the submarine returned to safe depth. Once power was isolated to the area by the electrical repair parties, the source of the smoke was found to be a melted transformer within the controller box for the number one chilled water plant. The transformer was removed from the controller box and there was no further damage to any of the surrounding equipment.
"HMCS Windsor remains at sea conducting vital operational training and evaluations that continue to increase the number of current submariner and technical certifications.
"As part of the built-in redundancy for cooling capacity, the submarine has three chilled water plants. The investigation into the cause of the transformer failure is underway however there is no immediate impact on operations as a result of this incident."
I'm sure the reason the Navy waited "over 24 hours to notify the public" was because they were probably debating with themselves: 'Look, if we announce this, the press will blow it completely out of proportion -- what's the point?' Of course, they did the right thing by announcing it -- otherwise, when the boat pulled back in, and some wife heard and called the press, you would have heard about the Navy "covering up" some horrendous fire.
Please don't think I'm minimizing the danger of fire aboard a submarine -- along with flooding, it's about the worst casualty you can have. That's why submariners are trained to put out fires as quickly as possible before they can cause real problems, and it looks like the crew of the Windsor did just that.
On the other hand, I did find this kewl graphic explaining how water came down the hatch on the Chicoutimi, so my visit to The Toronto Star website didn't completely rot my brain.
Staying at PD...