No injuries reported after Canadian frigate catches fire at sea

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HMCS Fredericton returning to port in Halifax on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. (Brett Ruskin/CBC - image credit)
HMCS Fredericton returning to port in Halifax on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. (Brett Ruskin/CBC - image credit)

A Canadian frigate serving as the flagship for one of NATO's standing naval groups has been damaged by fire off the coast of Norway.

The blaze occurred aboard HMCS Fredericton on Thursday morning local time, according to a NATO social media post.

The fire was extinguished by the crew.

"There were no injuries and the ship is now proceeding towards a Norwegian port to conduct repairs," NATO Maritime Command said in a Twitter statement.

Canada's military operations command reported on social media that the fire was confined to the forward engine room.

A spokesperson for operations command, speaking on background, said the fire was discovered before sunrise by one crew member and quickly put out.

The frigate is proceeding to port under its own power and is still serving as the NATO flagship.

A repair plan will be put together once the ship is in port.

CBC News reported in early 2020 that Canada's fleet of front-line frigates had at that point reported ten shipboard fires or smoke incidents over the previous two years.

The commander of the navy at the time, Vice-Admiral Art McDonald, said all of the episodes were minor. They also served as a stark reminder that the warships, built in the 1990s, are now in the second half of their operational lifespans and will require more attention and upkeep.

McDonald is now a full admiral and was appointed chief of the defence staff, but is currently on leave.

Only a few of the fires were reported publicly by the Department of National Defence (DND) between 2018 and 2020.

The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press

A written summary of onboard fires released by DND in 2020 revealed that one of the warships, HMCS Regina, experienced multiple fires — two in the fall of 2018 and another in the spring of 2019 — while conducting "at-sea readiness training in preparation for an upcoming deployment to the Asia Pacific."

That same warship suffered a fourth "smoke incident" in 2019 when a faulty transformer in a forward electrical switchboard began to smoulder.

HMCS Calgary and HMCS Toronto experienced two fires each over that two-year period, all of which rated public mentions at the time.

HMCS Halifax, the oldest frigate in the fleet, also suffered two fires. The more significant one broke out in the engine room during the fall of 2018 while the frigate was participating in the NATO exercise Trident Juncture.

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