No cause determined in fire at Sasebo ordnance facility
November 18, 2006
U.S. and Japanese officials were unable to determine what caused a fire that destroyed a carpenter’s shop and welding station at Sasebo Naval Base’s Maebata Ordnance Facility in October.
Extensive damage prevented authorities from determining what started the Oct. 21 blaze, said Charles Howard, a Commander, Fleet Activities Sasebo spokesman. The investigation is closed, he said.
Calling the fire “pretty major,” Howard said Thursday the building “was thoroughly gutted. Fortunately, there were no injuries.”
“Investigators said there was ‘extremely heavy charring throughout.’ When you have a situation like that, it’s pretty hard to pinpoint a specific cause because of the real high temperatures and melting of metal that goes on.”
According to a Navy news release issued Tuesday, the final report was based on eyewitness accounts, audio and video recordings, photos and experts from the Commander, Naval Forces Japan Regional Fire Department, Fleet Activities Sasebo Fire and Emergency Services Division, Sasebo City Fire Department, Sasebo Japan Nagasaki Prefecture National Police and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
“Everyone agrees this fire was an unfortunate event. We intend on carefully reviewing the fire investigation report and in cooperation with the city, reinforcing, strengthening and improving our abilities to avoid a recurrence,” the release states.
Upon arriving at the scene Oct. 21, Navy firefighting crews encountered fire and heavy smoke from the building’s southwest portion. That led investigators to believe the fire may have been burning for up to three hours when units arrived.
It was fought from the outside, the release stated, after the on-scene commander determined that the intense flames, heat and smoke, the probability that combustible fuel was inside and the danger of a roof collapse made entry unsafe.
The fire never was a threat to the general population or any of the facility’s ordnance storage areas, Howard said. Still, losses were estimated at $1.5 million.
The two-story, all-wood building of about 6,300 square feet was built in 1942, the release stated. It was used primarily for carpentry work, but the shop also performed mechanical repair operations within the ordnance area.
“They’re in the process now of regaining some lost capabilities and building back up,” Howard said. “We’ve been in temporary facilities … but our capacity is back. The damage included real property and a whole bunch of tools. They’ve gotten that all taken care of now.”