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Command Ship USS Mount Whitney Suffers 45 Minute Pier Side Fire, No Injures Reported

USS Mount Whitney (LCC20) is tugged in to the staging area to begin the dry dock process in the Viktor Lenac Shipyard in Rijeka, Croatia on Jan. 19, 2015. US Navy

USS Mount Whitney (LCC20) is tugged in to the staging area to begin the dry dock process in the Viktor Lenac Shipyard in Rijeka, Croatia on Jan. 19, 2015. US Navy

USS Mount Whitney (LCC-20) suffered a 45 minute fire that has caused an unknown amount of damage on the U.S. Navy’s Europe-based command ship, a service official told USNI News on Monday.

The fire occurred on July 31 while the ship was in dry dock Viktor Lenac Shipyard in Rijeka, Croatia at about 9:30 p.m. local time. The fire originated is a diesel generator space during testing, the official said.

No injuries were reported from either the ship’s company or the civilian workforce.

The cause of the rare fire, the extent of the damage and any delay to the delivery of the ship is unclear.

Mount Whitney — commissioned in 1971 — was been at the Croatian yard since January “undergoing a scheduled maintenance overhaul designed to extend the service life of the ship to 2039,” according to a statement from U.S. 6th Fleet.

The repairs included a dry dock availability that began shortly after the ship went into the yard.

As part of the Fiscal Year 2012 budget submission from the Navy, the service elected to cancel planned command ship replacement for Mount Whitney and sister ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19) — the U.S. 7th Fleet command ship — in favor of a maintenance program that would extend the life of the ships to almost 70 years.

Blue Ridge underwent a similar availability in Japan in 2012.

The expected time in service for the two ships will only be second to that of wooden frigate USS Constitution, which was launched in 1797, and has been kept in service for largely ceremonial and educational purposes.

Safety standards during maintenance availabilities of U.S. Navy ships are traditionally high, with the rare exception of the 2013 arson onboard USS Miami (SSN-755) which led to the attack boat’s early retirement from service last year.

  • Jon Trippe

    Shipyard fires are not ‘rare’ as the author keeps mentioning. I’ve experienced fires and floods (albeit small ones) in every shipyard period I have ever had on my ships. Besides combat operations at sea, it is the most dangerous time for a ship.

    • Steve Skubinna

      Exactly, fires in shipyards are not at all uncommon. Nearly every one in my experience has been due to the yardbirds taking shortcuts on a welding or cutting job and not posting a fire watch.

  • Retired_Marine

    I was a Marine aboard the Mount Whitney in 1972

    • Steve Skubinna

      Never did a command ship, neither in the Navy or MSC. Now that I am retiring, happy to say it won’t happen. I hear the liberty ports are good but who wants to deal with all the shenanigans that accompany the brass?

  • Beomoose

    I’m glad this fire apaprently injured no one and seems not to have been too damaging. But let’s not miss an opportunity to point out the Command Ships are some of the hardest-working hulls in the fleet. It’s way past time we committed to replacing them before they just go to pieces on us.

  • Leatherstocking

    It would an excellent follow-up to understand how a fleet command ship is being extensively serviced in a foreign port. Thousands of opportunities to plant electronic eavesdropping devices, tracking transmitters, etc. in a ship that size.
    Croatia was a communist country and one could assume that Russian intel relationships still exist. I know we service ships at NATO and SEATO allies but it seems an odd choice.

    • Joel Weinbaum

      Rijeka is Crotia’s commercial seaport, west of Zagreb and south of Trieste, at the top of the notch. Maybe like the movie “From Russia With Love,” with Sean Connery. They are just part communist.

      • Leatherstocking

        Thanks for the information on the port as I was a Pacific airedale. Of course, if the women look like Comrade Daniela Bianchi (From Russia With Love), I would put all of my repair work there.

    • YouWannaArmWrestle

      There is this thing called money. Croatia is prolly cheaper….

  • Curtis Conway

    Every yard period I was ever involved in ship’s company provided Fire Watches. Without knowing anything about the facts of the fire, this sure looks like a fire in an adjacent space on a steel ship. A single welding job can have as many as eight Fire Watches. Really look forward to the report.

  • Hugh

    Two ships, each to serve 70 years – wow! But I guess if the equipment is progressively upgraded, and the hull and machinery is not driven hard, why not. (While the highly demanding aircraft carriers are now looking at 50 year lives, some time back a SLEP was considered to extend them out to 65 years.)

  • WhereAreTheFacts

    Irresponsible reporting as usual. Fire was nowhere near 45 mins and ship was not in dry dock.