KITTERY – Rep. Chellie Pingree, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, climbed down inside the U.S.S. Miami today, observing the damage caused by last month’s fire on the nuclear submarine.

“You could see a tremendous number of hanging wires, a couple of components where the glass on the front had completely melted,” Pingree said. “It was clear the heat had been quite intense.”

The submarine’s interior caught fire the evening of May 23 and burned for 10 hours, damaging the control room, torpedo room and crew quarters. Pingree donned a protective white suit and was taken to the control room this morning.

Pingree later visited the propulsion area, including where the nuclear reactor is located, as Navy officials sought to assure her that the fire did no damage there, she said.

The Navy did not report a cause of the fire and said it will take two to three weeks to fully assess the damage and make a decision about whether to repair the submarine or to decommission it, she said.

“The good news is that Navy officials at this point tell me it’s unlikely the Miami will be scrapped, but we won’t know for sure until the investigation is finished in the next two or three weeks,” Pingree said. “It was also great to hear that it’s unlikely that the ship would be moved to another shipyard for repairs.”

The Maine shipyard has the workforce ideally suited to repair the submarine, Vice Admiral Kevin McCoy, commander of the Naval Sea Systems Command, told Pingree on Friday, she sad.  McCoy was commander of the shipyard between 2001 and 2004.

In a fortuitous twist, the shipyard is almost finished decommissioning another Los Angeles submarine, the Memphis, and workers would be able to salvage parts for the Miami, Pingree was told.

If the submarine is decommissioned, there will be work associated with that similar to the work being done on the Memphis, she said.

McCoy told Pingree that the Navy does not anticipate layoffs at the shipyard, she said. There is a shortage of workers skilled in the trades used at the shipyard and the Navy is now bringing in people from other parts of the country to fill some of those jobs, Pingree said.

If the submarine is not repaired, there is work at other facilities in the country that requires workers like those at Portsmouth and workers could be shifted to other yards.

Pingree said her trip into the submarine reminded her of the bravery of those who fought the fire.

“It’s hard to climb into a submarine when nothing is going and there’s no smoke in the way, but to imagine firefighters going in with smoke and fire … It’s a little round hole, a very small opening you go through,” she said.

“Once you get in, it’s just a tiny little corridor and the intensity of the fire was so hot they could not get in there,” she said.