Fire-damaged Navy cruiser returning to Mayport

No sailors injured in engine-room fire

MAYPORT, Fla. – A fire in the engine room of the USS Hue City on Monday night will return to Mayport just one week after leaving on deployment.

None of about 330 sailors onboard the guided missile cruiser were injured in the fire, which broke out as the Hue City was steaming about 200 nautical miles northeast of Bermuda, according to the initial incident report sent by the ship.

The report, obtained by Navy Times, said the fire started in the No. 1 gas turbine generator, located in main engine room one, and the crew reacted by going to general quarters. The fire spread from the generator, through the exhaust uptakes and to the first and third decks of the ship.

The fire was officially declared out about an hour and a half later but caused major damage.

The message said this appears to be among the Navy's most serious shipboard fires in a few years.

Officials said the ship was operating under its own power, but will be accompanied back to Mayport by the USS Gettysburg. The ships are expected to arrive on Friday morning.

The Department of Defense will investigate how the fire started. The ship is worth about $1 billion, but it's unknown how much the repairs will cost.

"Fire at sea is the worst nightmare at sea, and it's been known to be forever," said retired Vice Adm. Jim Amerault. "That's why we diligently and egregiously practice fire drills of all types on the ship and in port."

Amerault has been in command of ships similar to the Hue and was on one when it caught fire.

"It was very, very serious, and they handled it very well," he said. "If they hadn't, I probably wouldn't be here today."

Amerault said the Navy does a great job training for fires and other things that could go wrong.

"During an emergency like this, large fire parties -- we call them -- are pulled together with people from all ranks on the ship," Amerault said. "But they train together in these teams on an extremely regular basis. So those teams are absolutely excellent."

The Hue City was commissioned in 1991. It's 567 feet long, 55 feet tall and is worth about $1 billion. The ship is on deployment to the Navy's Sixth Fleet area of responsibility, which includes waters near Europe and Africa.