OTTAWA — A fire broke out on HMCS Fredericton early Thursday morning as the Canadian frigate was leading several other NATO warships in a training exercise off the coast of Norway.
The cause of the blaze and extent of damage to the vessel wasn’t immediately clear, though the Canadian Joint Operations Command reported there were no injuries. The ship is docked in the Norwegian city of Trondheim for repairs.
The fire comes more than 18 months after members of Fredericton’s crew watched firsthand as the ship’s Cyclone helicopter went down off the coast of Greece in April 2020. Six Canadian Armed Forces members died in the crash.
A military investigation report released earlier this year largely blamed the crash on a software problem. It is unclear whether the problem has been fixed on the rest of Canada’s Cyclones, which are back in the air after a short operational pause.
The fire Thursday also follows a Royal Canadian Navy investigation into a rash of blazes and power outages on different vessels in 2018. At the time, navy officials did not believe those incidents were related.
Following the Cyclone crash, Fredericton spent more than a year at its home port in Halifax before leaving in July for a six-month deployment commanding Standing NATO Maritime Group One, a multinational quick-reaction force off the northern coast of Europe.
Norwegian newspaper Bergens Tidende reported that the first sign of trouble came around 5 a.m. local time when a distress call was received by a Norwegian rescue centre that a military vessel had lost power.
The Fredericton was leading three other warships from Norway, Portugal and Denmark north as part of a Norwegian training exercise through what Norwegian officials described as extreme weather conditions, Bergens Tidende reported.
The Canadian Joint Operations Command said the fire broke out in Fredericton’s engine room and was quickly extinguished by the crew.
“There were no injuries and the ship is now proceeding towards a Norwegian port to conduct repairs,” the command said. “The ship was assisted by several other NATO warships that were serving in Standing NATO Maritime Group 1, as well as the Norwegian Coast Guard.”
It added the ship is sailing under its own power and propulsion.
While it’s unclear what effect the fire will have on Fredericton’s current deployment, NATO spokesman Eric Reynolds said the other alliance vessels it was commanding will continue to take part in the Norwegian training exercise.
Fredericton’s captain, Commodore Bradley Peats, and his command crew are still in contact with the other ships, Reynolds added in an email, “and there is no change in their ability to direct SNMG 1 operations.”
Fires have caused significant damage — and even death — on Canadian navy ships in the past.
Crew members of HMCS Protecteur spent 11 desperate hours fighting a fire on their navy resupply ship in 2014, while 21 sailors on HMCS Ottawa were treated for minor injuries in 2004 after a blaze on the frigate.
In addition, navy Lt. Chris Saunders died and three fellow crewmates were treated for serious injuries after a fire on the submarine HMCS Chicoutimi while traversing the Atlantic in 2004.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2021.
Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press