Nova Scotia

Crew safe after Halifax frigate fire

All 16 sailors sent to hospital after a fire aboard HMCS Toronto have been sent home.

All 16 sailors sent to hospital after a fire aboard HMCS Toronto have been sent home.

Five crew members were taken to hospital Monday night after breathing in smoke. They were released Tuesday morning after a second check, a navy spokesperson said.

Eleven others were examined on Tuesday morning and are fine.

Cmdr. Chris Henderson said the military takes a cautious approach with smoke inhalation injuries following two other fires aboard vessels in the last year, including the blaze on HMCS Chicoutimi which led to the death of one submariner.

No one was injured in a fire last February on board HMCS Fredericton as it was docked in Hamilton, Bermuda. The fire was traced to a faulty transformer in the electrical panel.

Monday's fire aboard HMCS Toronto started in the forward auxiliary machinery room at 7:10 p.m., as the ship was tied up in Halifax.

Crew members, personnel from three other ships and a fire tug all battled the blaze, which took 30 minutes to put out.

Naval officials said maintenance crews working on the ship's generator first noticed smoke and flames and called for help.

"Early indications are that heat produced by the diesel generator exhaust ignited material that was stored one deck above the diesel itself," said Lt.-Cmdr. Jeff Zwick, second in command of the frigate.

The extent of the damage is not known, but Zwick said the fire will not delay the frigate's next mission in July.

HMCS Toronto was built in Saint John, N.B., and commissioned by the navy in 1993. The 134-metre warship has taken part in a number of operations, including enforcing embargoes of the former Yugoslavia and Iraq.

Canada's chief of defence staff, Gen. Rick Hillier, found himself answering questions about more problems with his navy during his visit to Halifax Tuesday.

The fire aboard HMCS Toronto was minor, Hillier said, and "it's not going to impact the readiness of the fleet to do the jobs which they have to do."

Hours before the fire, the submarine HMCS Windsor had to return to port after the captain discovered a minor mechanical error.