I just came across an interesting post at the Barents Observer, which makes the argument that the Ekaterinburg fire started in the torpedo compartment, rather than on the submarine’s exterior. This is based on visual analysis of photos posted by a local blogger in the Murmansk area. I don’t have permission to cross-post the photos, so I urge those who might have expertise in this area to go look at the photos and accompanying discussion.
The argument, in brief, is that the rubber outer covering of the submarine, which is what supposedly burned, does not appear in post-fire photos to have sustained much damage. Instead, the fire may have started near the hydro-acoustic apparatus that is located inside the outer hull. Again, I have no idea whether this argument makes any sense or not, as I’m neither an expert on firefighting nor on submarine construction. But it’s worth at least noting the rumors circulating in the Russian internet, which also include the possibility that torpedoes had not been offloaded. Here’s a good summary of the alternative version of what happened during the fire.
Finally, one other question: If there was a 4×4 meter hole in the submarine, as seems fairly clear from the first of the Barents Observer photos, then what happened to the submarine’s interior when the sub was submerged in order to put out the fire? At the very least, it would seem to me that the torpedo compartment must have sustained extensive salt water damage, no?
Anyway, I’m not one to hold to conspiracy theories, so I will assume that the official version of events is the one most likely to be true, unless there’s good evidence to the contrary. But it’s worth knowing that other explanations are floating around.