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  • Writer's pictureBig Rick Stuart

Fire, Fire, Fire: How Navy Failures Destroyed the Bonhomme Richard


On 12 July 2020, a fire started on a lower vehicle-storage deck while the ship was undergoing maintenance at Naval Base San Diego. It took four days for firefighters to extinguish the fire, which injured at least 63 sailors and civilians and severely damaged the ship. After a long investigation into the cause of the fire, a sailor was charged with arson. Because repairs were estimated to take up to seven years and cost up to $3.2 billion, the ship was decommissioned on 15 April 2021, and sold for scrap.

G Captian <- more at the link

As the fire aboard the 844 ft LOA, 27,000-ton Wasp Class Amphibious Assault Ship grew, temperatures reached over 1400 degrees F, melting her aluminum internal superstructure. Rapidly, the fire engulfed nearly the entire ship, enabled by chaos and confusion.

Mismatched hose threads, lack of compatible radios and common frequencies, inability to locate the fire, inability to provide firefighting water, no SCBA refilling capability, portable pumps inoperable, dead batteries in equipment, inability to accurately account for all crew, inability to take correct draft readings (required for stability calculations), not accounting for free surface effect, and a “leadership vacuum”. These are just a few of the issues identified in the US Navy’s report.

Upon reviewing the recently released 434-page US Navy report on the USS Bonhomme Richard fire, I am saddened by the multitude of identified needless errors, as well as the realization that possibly our vulnerabilities as a military are not threats from Russian hypersonic missiles, or North Korean nuclear bombs, but ourselves.

Our military bureaucracy has become so complicated and filled with incomprehensible manuals and flowcharts that we are now disconnected from the critical need for mastering the basic skills needed to be an effective maritime professional. Firefighting is just one of many skills which all mariners must embrace, in addition to marlinspike seamanship, damage control, ship handling, stability, and small boat operation.

G Captian <- more at the link

In better times

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