Fire on USS Midway

Published: July 16, 2015

Fire on USS Midway, Welding construction work being done at the USS Midway Museum sparked a hot fire below decks early Wednesday morning, prompting the ship to be evacuated, a fire official said.

Firefighters were called around 5:30 a.m. to the permanently docked aircraft carrier at Navy Pier in downtown and found light smoke inside, said Lee Swanson, a spokesman for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.

The aircraft carrier museum is considered a high-rise so a second alarm was immediately called. The blaze went to a third alarm, which summoned more firefighters and equipment, because firefighters were having trouble getting to the blaze. However, Swanson said many firefighters remained in a staging area and didn’t go onto the ship.

Workers, including welders, had been on the job overnight since the museum had closed for the day Tuesday afternoon. They were onboard when the fire started and evacuated to the dock. One worker reported feeling dizzy and was examined by paramedics, Swanson said.

He said the work was going on two decks below the flight deck, but sparks and hot slag from welding fell through a floor grate and ignited debris and insulation in a small area below.

“They initially poured water on it from above, but eventually got down there,” Swanson said.

Firefighters found a “hot door” with a temperature of about 600 degrees but first couldn’t get close enough to find what was burning. Locked doors made access difficult. They finally reached the flames about 7:40 a.m., used a fire extinguisher to suppress most of them, then doused the fire with water, Swanson said. A spot about three feet across had burned.

Midway spokesman Scott McGaugh said the fire was in an area near the bow of the ship that is being renovated to expand the museum’s popular sleepover program.

After firefighters were finished extinguishing the blaze, staff and volunteers were allowed back on the ship around 8:30a.m.

None of the public areas of the museum was damaged and the attraction was expected to open for business at 9:30 a.m. as usual.

The Midway was the longest-serving carrier in U.S. naval history and was turned into a museum in 2004. It draws more than 1 million visitors annually.


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