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Protecteur fire melted sailor’s glasses; ship towed into Pearl Harbor

The heat was so intense, his eyeglasses melted when he set them down, said Petty Officer 2nd Class Shawn Mosson, recalling how he helped fight the fire aboard HMCS Protecteur. A heavily damaged Protecteur was towed into Pearl Harbor on Thursday.
HMCS Protecteur_6.jpg
HMCS Protecteur is towed into Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on March 6, 2014.

The heat was so intense, his eyeglasses melted when he set them down, said Petty Officer 2nd Class Shawn Mosson, recalling how he helped fight the fire aboard HMCS Protecteur.

A heavily damaged Protecteur was towed into Pearl Harbor on Thursday.

Mosson and his shipmates fought a huge engine room fire on the night of Feb. 27 that crippled the Royal Canadian Navy supply ship, leaving it dead in the water about 630 kilometres from Pearl Harbor.

In an interview shortly after arriving in Pearl Harbor, Mosson said he had just sat down to have a cup of coffee in the cafeteria when he heard the alarm. He immediately went below and grabbed a hose to cool off the deck.

“Our boots were starting to melt to the deck from the heat,” he said. “[We were] overcome with smoke. You couldn’t see your hand in front of your face.”

Mosson, from Brandon, Man., said his training kicked in as he focused on fighting the fire. Now that he’s back on land, Mosson said he’ll first take a shower — “a very long one at that.”

He’s looking forward to returning to Canada but it’s not clear when that might happen.

The cause of the fire is still unknown. About 20 crew members suffered minor injuries fighting the fire.

American ocean fleet tug USNS Sioux towed Protecteur into Pearl Harbor. The ship and crew were met by Commodore Bob Auchterlonie, commander of Canadian Fleet Pacific, who travelled to Hawaii with fire investigators and naval engineers from CFB Esquimalt, Protecteur’s home port.

Efforts to bring the ship to Pearl Harbor were made difficult by high winds and rough seas but with the U.S. navy’s help, Protecteur was successfully brought in with its 279-member crew on board. Family members and civilian contractors who had been on the ship when the fire occurred were flown home earlier this week. Protecteur was heading home after a seven-week mission when the fire occurred.

“Morale on the ship still remains high though they’ve been operating under difficult circumstances,” said Capt. Trevor Reid from navy public affairs. The electricity supply was low and humidity on the ship increased as it got closer to shore and further from the open-ocean breeze.

Reid said the first priority is caring for the crew. “Get them a hot meal, shower and some clothes. They’ve done a great job and deserve some time to decompress and relax,” he said. A few sailors will return home for family reasons but most will stay in Hawaii in case they are needed for repairs or operation of Protecteur.

Sailors will be staying in floating barracks supplied by the U.S. navy.

“I could not be more proud of the courage, determination and perseverance of my ship’s company,” said Julian Elbourne, commanding officer of Protecteur, in a statement. “We are also thankful for the tremendous support of the U.S. navy, U.S. Coast Guard, our friends and colleagues in the [navy], and of course our loved ones back home, with whom we are looking forward to reuniting.”

spetrescu@timescolonist.com