NORFOLK-Navy and civilian first responders joined forces Friday to practice how they'd fight a fire aboard a ship tied up at a local shipyard.

It's a difficult situation for sailors, who are used to their ships being at sea and not in an industrial environment like a shipyard.

The guided missile destroyer USS Cole was the practice ship for the drill, as it underwent repairs at MHI Shipyard in West Ghent.

Virtually every deck and passageway was covered with hoses, cables and wires, creating a number of trip hazards.

'A ship fire is quite a bit different from a normal house fire,' said Assistant Chief Mark McCoy of the Norfolk Fire Department. 'Usually in a house fire you have normal walkways you get through. A ship is not an environment we're used to working in all the time.'

McCoy said the exercise was an excellent opportunity for his firefighters. 'Any type of training that we could get that would enhance our capabilities on a ship is real worth it to us,' said McCoy.

The Navy got first-hand experience with a similar situation 11 months ago when an arsonist set fire to the submarine USS Miami at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine. Six people were injured fighting the enormous fire.

Navy Mid Atlantic Region Maintenance Command Technical Director Dale Hirschman says training of this kind is 'critical.' Hirschman said it's important that Navy and civilian counterparts communicate well in a crisis. 'We think anytime we get to practice like this, it really helps us be prepared if by chance the real thing should happen,' he said.

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