PORTLAND, Maine (AP/CBS) —A former shipyard worker accused of setting a fire that caused about $450 million in damage to a nuclear submarine has pleaded guilty.

U.S. Attorney Thomas Delahanty II said 24-year-old Casey James Fury of Portsmouth, N.H., waived indictment and pleaded guilty Thursday to two counts of arson.

Fury is now looking at up to two decades in prison, after a dramatic turn of events Thursday.

At a news conference in Portland, Maine, investigators said Fury wanted to leave work early after texting with his girlfriend and becoming “anxious.”

“I have to believe that he figured that by setting the fire, they’d tell them to leave work for the day and come back after they got it cleaned up,” said Delahanty II.

The submarine had been at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine for a routine overhaul.

Fury had been hired as a civilian painter and sandblaster.

Court documents obtained Thursday by WBZ-TV reveal Fury set fire to cotton rags which were placed on a bed in a stateroom on the second deck back in May.

The fire spread quickly, endangering the lives of about 50 people on board, according to federal investigators.

It took more than 100 firefighters to save the Miami in dry dock at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, after the fire quickly spread through forward compartments.

The next month Fury set a second fire.

“It is a situation that caused tremendous damage to the Navy,” said Delahanty.

At Fury’s mother’s home in Portsmouth New Hampshire today, Kathy Fury declined to go on camera but told WBZ-TV through her front door she loves her son, the family is devastated but standing behind him.

“He’s been a wonderful son,” said Kathy Fury. “We miss him so much. I would never support my son if he was some kind of thug.”

The plea deal calls for Casey Fury to serve between 15 and 19 years in prison.

He remains behind bars and will be sentenced in early 2013.

The Navy intends to repair the Los Angeles-class sub, which is based in Groton, Conn., with a goal of returning it to sea in 2015.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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