Pardon my ignorance here. But I have a question.
I know that fire in a sub is considered one of the most dangerous threats there is (every crew-member is trained in fire suppression on a sub). But since this ship was presumably unmanned and in dry dock, and presumably also still air-tight, why didn't they just close all the hatches in the effected areas and shut off the oxygen? I can't imagine a fire in such an enclosed space would last very long without incoming oxygen.
I am a former submariner.
1 - A submarine in dry dock is basically a ship on ship. A problem on one constitutes a problem on the other.
2 - There is a lot of piping throughout the boat. It contains either oxygen (@ 10's of PSI) or hydraulic fluid (@ thousands of PSI). If the piping burst, its source is a giant tank containing much more of the stuff in a different location of the boat. There are isolation valves, however, which may mitigate the problem for a while.
3 - There's this thing called a nuclear reactor. It's shut-down while in dry-dock but still requires power to keep it safe.
4 - Separating the reactor and the forward compartment is a giant tank containing thousands of gallons of diesel fuel oil. If it over heats, well, yeah, kiss your asses goodbye.
5 - There's a HUGE battery on the boat for when the boat needs to run off of battery power. It contains an enormous amount of energy - so much so that if it caught fire and exploded, the sub, the dry-dock and the facilities surrounding it would be damn near vaporised. I think anything within a few miles would *easily* have its windows blown out if not flattened.
6 - If the reactor has a problem, you'll basically have Fukushima on your hands.
7 - Submarine fires (when the get large enough) dont stay a single class of fire for long. There is too much hydraulic fluid, electrical line and combustible materials for it to remain one class of fire for long - ergo, one can not simply spray water (seawater, btw) to extinguish it.
So, no. Shuttering the place up and trying to starve the fire isn't exactly a proactive manner to extinguish a fire.
Throw in skeleton crews (most systems shut down), lots of welding, oil and whatnot all over the deck and you have a recipe for disaster on your hands. I'm surprised there arn't more fires of this magnitude more often.
More questions? Guess I'll read below and answer some there, too.