A Royal Canadian Navy ship sailing in the Pacific Ocean sustained “significant damage” after a fire broke out in the engine room Thursday night, and 20 crew members suffered minor injuries.

Sailors on board HMCS Protecteur eventually managed to put out the fire.

The ship was returning to its home port of CFB Esquimalt in British Columbia when the fire broke out around 10:20 p.m.

HMCS Protecteur is now stopped in the water about 630 kilometres northeast of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and will be towed there as it has limited power.

Commodore Bob Auchterlonie, the commander of the navy's Pacific fleet, called the fire a “worst-case scenario” and “a significant emotional event for the crew.”

But he said the crew was “exceptionally well prepared” for such an emergency thanks to extensive training.

“They saved the ship last night,” Auchterlonie told reporters Friday afternoon, noting that the fire occurred in a very large space and was difficult to extinguish.

The minor injuries included smoke inhalation.

Auchterlonie wouldn’t speculate on the cause of the fire. He said the damage to the ship is “significant,” but still being assessed.

The U.S. Navy has sent a destroyer, USS Michael Murphy, to assist HMCS Protecteur. Auchterlonie said towing the Canadian ship to Hawaii could take some time.

Returning from operational duties in the mid-Pacific, HMCS Protecteur was carrying 279 crew members, 17 family members and two civilian contractors. The Department of National Defence said bringing family members on board for the last leg of a sail is common practice when sailors are away for a long period of time.

HMCS Protecteur, one of Canada’s two supply ships, had been in Pacific waters for about seven weeks, Auchterlonie said.

HMCS has been in service since 1969, but Auchterlonie said an engine room fire could happen aboard any ship, whether it’s new or old.

Last summer, HMCS Protecteur was involved in a collision with HMCS Algonquin during towing exercises en route to Hawaii.

There were no reports of injuries, but the Algonquin sustained significant damage and was removed from operations in the Asia Pacific region. The damage to the Protecteur was not serious.