FIRE AT SEA! THOSE words have been the dread of every mariner since ships began to navigate the Earth's waters. Wooden commercial and military ships of the past have been struck by lightning in the fiercest storms and few have survived to record their logbook duties, while others have had their cooking fires spilled in rough seas. However, nothing compares to an engine room explosion on board a ship loaded to the gills with highly flammable fuel and weapons munitions. That dread became a reality to the over 200 men serving on board the HMCS Kootenay on October 23, 1969, some 200 miles west of Plymouth, England. Ironically, the Canadian Parliament was due to reconvene its 28th session on this day and a White Paper on NATO defence policy was on the agenda. Fulfilment of NATO commitments, sovereignty' and the defence of North America in cooperation with the United States were among the top priorities of the Defence White Paper. Seemingly contrary to these priorities was a directive to "assist the civil powers" under the classification of "Priority One" at Canadian Forces Headquarters. The origin of this "Priority One" and its relation to Canadian foreign policy was not clarified. HMCS Kootenay would play a role in the Standing Naval Force Atlantic (STANAVFORLANT) to fulfil an obligation to a collective security arrangement with NATO. STANAVFORIANT stems from exercises Matchmaker One (1966) and Matchmaker Two (1967), the year that Egypt and Israel were engaged in bailie, and with the expulsion from Egypt of the Canadian United Nations peacekeepers. By 1968, when Soviet tanks tread into Czechoslovakia, STANAVFORLANT was compiled of NATO ship squadrons.