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The Halifax-class frigate HMCS Fredericton returns to Halifax on July 28, 2020 after completing a six-month deployment in the Mediterranean Sea.Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

Royal Canadian Navy commander Vice-Admiral Craig Baines says the fire that broke out on board HMCS Fredericton last month while the frigate was sailing off the coast of Norway could have been avoided.

Baines tells The Canadian Press in an interview that the Nov. 18 fire is believed to have started after Fredericton’s crew forgot to disconnect a temporary bilge pump that was set up while repairs were being done to the main pump.

The military has said there were no injuries, though Fredericton’s captain has said the fight to put out the fire was challenging due to cramped quarters and rough seas at the time.

Baines says the fact the fire was not the result of a systemic issue in the navy’s frigates is good news, though he admits the 12 warships that make up the fleet are starting to show their age.

The Halifax-class frigates entered service in the 1980s and have been plagued by a number of fires and other problems in recent years, but aren’t due to start being replaced with new vessels until the early 2030s.

Baines says he is working with other parts of government to make sure the fleet gets the upgrades and repairs it needs to continue protecting Canada and operating overseas until replacements are in the water.