It’s still not clear how much damage a new Navy destroyer docked at Bath Iron Works sustained after a system failure caused one of the ship’s engine stacks to catch fire.

A spokesman for the Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, D.C., confirmed that the fire broke out Friday during a routine gas turbine engine test.

The fire on board the USS Spruance, DDG-111, was extinguished within minutes and no one was injured, said Chris Johnson, a Navy spokesman. The fire was contained within the stack, which is designed to handle hot gases.

A photo posted online shows flames shooting into the air several feet above the stack opening.

An investigation is under way to determine the cause of the fire and the extent of the damage, Johnson said. The USS Spruance had been scheduled to leave Bath this September. It cost about $1 billion to build.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wants to dredge the Kennebec River in August to prevent the Spruance from running aground. That decision has proved controversial because it would occur during the height of the summer fishing and tourism season.

“It’s going to take us some time to determine what needs to be fixed and how it will affect the ship’s departure date,” Johnson said. He said the cost to repair the ship is also unknown.

The USS Spruance was christened in Bath on June 5, 2010. The destroyer has already undergone sea trials and in April was delivered to the Navy.

The vessel is currently docked in Bath where it is undergoing what is known as post delivery work — a process that allows BIW workers to put the finishing touches on the ship and gives the ship’s crew the time it needs to train on its operating systems.

It was during this process last Friday afternoon that the fire erupted, according to Jim DeMartini, a spokesman for BIW.

DeMartini said it was his understanding that the shipyard’s firefighting force responded.

The Spruance is the 33rd Arleigh Burke Class destroyer built at Bath.

The destroyer is named for Admiral Raymond Spruance, who was instrumental in developing the island-hopping amphibious strategy that helped the U.S. Navy reclaim the Pacific following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Spruance was in command of the Fifth Fleet during the June 1944 Battle of the Philippine Sea — also known as the Marianas Turkey Shoot.

DeMartini said the ship’s home port will be San Diego. It will have a crew of 276 men and women.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:
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