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US Coast Guard cutter battles fire outbreak off Japan

USCGC Waesche fire
The superstructure of the cutter burning on September 19, 2020, in the Western Pacific Ocean. Photo: US Coast Guard

One of the US Coast Guard’s newest cutters, the USCGC Waesche (WMSL 751), arrived in Japan today after combating a shipboard engineering fire on September 20.

The fire outbreak occurred during a scheduled deployment to the US 7th Fleet’s area of operations.

According to the US 7th Fleet command, black smoke was reported at 5:18 p.m. (local time) Sunday, and investigations revealed fires in the exhaust stack and nearby spaces.

After 90 minutes of firefighting, the fires were confirmed extinguished.

Five crew members reported minor injuries sustained during firefighting efforts and were treated by the onboard medical team.

The extent of the damages and cause of the fire are currently under investigation. While at Fleet Forces Yokosuka, the cutter will undergo further inspection and potentially repairs.

“The rapid response and courageous efforts from the crewmembers aboard Waesche to quickly contain and extinguish the fire are a testament to the bravery and skill of this crew,” said Capt. Jason Ryan, Waesche’s commanding officer.

The cutter is under the tactical control of US 7th Fleet and belongs to the Legend-class of 418-foot national security cutters. National security cutters have a crew of more than 150 and are among the largest and most technologically sophisticated vessels in the Coast Guard’s fleet.

US Coast guard file photo of USCGC Waesche

In 2019, Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf and Stratton deployed for a combined 326 days to the Western Pacific.

Both cutters enforced United Nations Security Council resolutions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by monitoring and gathering intelligence on vessels conducting ship-to-ship transfers in the East China, South China, and Yellow Seas.

Bertholf and Stratton also engaged in professional exchanges and capacity-building exercises with partner navies and coast guards while visiting ports in Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Fiji, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

Bertholf made history during their patrol as the first Coast Guard cutter to transit the Taiwan Strait March 24-25, 2019.

Stratton’s crew combated illegal fishing by conducting seven high seas fisheries boardings under the authority of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission while transiting between the Philippines and Guam.