Another submarine fire

Just a very brief note today, since (with a couple exceptions) the media seems to have largely failed to cover the news that there was another fire on a Russian nuclear submarine undergoing routine maintenance. This time it was the Gepard, the newest of the Akula class SSNs. The fire was in the fourth compartment, and occurred while walls were being cleaned with an alcohol based cleaning fluid. During this process, a lamp was dropped, igniting the alcohol fumes. The fire was quickly extinguished and from all reports the damage appears to be fairly minor. But the Northern Fleet is refusing to confirm the incident, so official damage estimates are not available.

This incident again raises the question of safety practices in the Russian Navy. Are there safer forms of cleaning solution (or lighting) available? And while the military is much more open about issues than it used to be, it’s problematic that it still won’t acknowledge incidents such as fires unless they are so serious that they can’t be kept hidden.

UPDATE: Kommersant reports that the fire was caused by civilian personnel and that it was extinguished by the automatic chemical fire retardant system. Furthermore, the report speculates that the sub may be out of commission for a few months.