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HMCS Victoria, shown leaving Halifax in 2003, left CFB Esquimalt on Tuesday. (CP File Photo)

The first of four Canadian navy submarines has returned to sea, after they were all grounded in the wake of the deadly fire aboard HMCS Chicoutimi last fall.

HMCS Victoria – the only vessel based on the West Coast – set sail from CFB Esquimalt on Tuesday, the navy said.

It underwent extensive safety improvements recommended by the inquiry that looked into a fire that killed a sailor and crippled the Chicoutimi in October 2004.

"HMCS Victoria met all the requirements for a safe return to sea," Vice-Admiral Bruce MacLean, commander of Canada's navy, said in a statement.

"Having implemented all the immediate recommendations from the Chicoutimi board of inquiry, I am satisfied that all our crew and submarine verification work has proven Victoria ready and safe for operations."

The improvements included modifications to the submarines and enhancements to crew procedures and training, he said.

Victoria is one of four mothballed British submarines bought by the Canadian government in 1998. There have been cost overruns and mechanical problems with the subs.

The Chicoutimi board of inquiry made several recommendations, such as putting upgraded electrical cables in the four Victoria-class submarines. It also suggested placing more breathing masks in the submarines, in places that are easily accessible.

Officials are now focusing on the Halifax-based HMCS Windsor, which they expect to return to sea soon.

They said HMCS Corner Brook and Chicoutimi are still being upgraded and repaired.