12 July 2020

USS Bonhomme Richard Is Ablaze

LHD-6 is on fire.

Skeleton crew aboard for routine maintenance.

Fingers crossed that it looks worse than it is.

I'm betting a weld started the fire.  It's far too common.

The comments from Facebook are actually getting hilarious.

Apparently a significant number of people are unaware that ship names are recycled.

LHD-6 is the third ship of the name.  Preceded by CV-31 and John Paul Jones' Revolutionary War frigate.


  1. Fire watch! we don't need no stinking fire watch!

    Yes it happens more often than it should.

    I hope there was no injuries or loss of life.

  2. Statement from the Chief of Naval Operations on fire aboard USS Bonhomme Richard.

  3. I'm completely ignorant of life on a ship like that, so some questions.

    I gather being in port for routine maintenance means the ship is still operational, but during one of those intervals when it's not actively on patrol and this isn't a retired or inactive ship? Does that mean the number on board is unusually small?

    Is it a bad sign that lots of resources from the port were used to fight the fire? I mean, those little boats spraying water on the LHD-6 obviously aren't around if the ship is thousands of miles out to sea. I would have guessed that the ship should be equipped with adequate hardware to fight any fires that could be envisioned.

    1. My understanding is she was mostly shut down for the maintenance work and just as skeleton crew was embarked.

      The normal fire suppression systems would be offline and much of the firefighting gear lacked crew to operate it anyway.

      Some Navy vets are chiming in on forum threads about this talking about fires they've had on ships they served on. Fire on board is serious shit and it's pounced on aggressively. All of them spoke of a yard fire with particular dread because of the lack of systems from the shut down and lack of crews to notice a fire when it's small.

    2. Former sailor here.

      The pictures I've seen of this fire show it just being pierside at 32nd Street. Since it's not in drydock, I don't know what they mean by "routine maintenance". Maintenance is ongoing, every day and night. They're just not at sea.

      When in port, the squadrons and personnel from the air-wing will have gone back to their bases. For helo's, across the bay to NAS North Island.

      So only embarked ships company will be aboard. Many of whom will not actually be aboard. Night shift folks will be ashore. Those off duty will be ashore. Since it was Sunday, most will be off duty and gone.

      The duty Flying Squad members (emergency "damage control" watchstanders) will be aboard, and either performing other duties (cleaning, working their normal job) or sleeping, eating, etc. They'll respond as soon as the fire is noticed and reported. If the Flying Squad needs more people, then the rest of the ship's company duty personnel will be tasked with assisting.

      The notice and reporting of the fire can take a while, depending on what started the fire, and where it is located. Boxes or rags too close to an active steam line in a storeroom can catch fire and nobody can notice until the fire is out of control. That's how one of the fires happened when I was on the USS Midway (CV-41). Another happened when a boiler let go a couple of months after I left. So it depends on where and when.

      The ships don't have fire suppression systems like in buildings ashore, because if it were to malfunction, or be left to just pump water in without control then that's called flooding and is almost as bad as fire.

      Since the early 1980's every sailor has been required to have a firefighting class in recruit training (boot camp). So all the sailors onboard should have been able to "grab a hose" as it were.

      Most spaces (rooms) onboard have firehoses or fire extinguishers.

      Fire on a ship is complicated. Most spaces have all kinds of pipes running through, that could have fuel for the boilers, or aviation fuel, or who knows what. And electrical lines running through the fire will soon be melted and cut.

      Scary stuff, fire on a ship. They're lucky they are in port.

    3. The "maintenance" was the upgrades to embark F-35B and has been ongoing for the past two years.

  4. Former submarine guy here. Being in a maintenance availability on a ship ... think "nasty industrial environment" and pretty much the inside is uninhabitable, at least the berthing and messing spaces. The crew is probably living on either a barge nearby, or in the base barracks. Duty section on board on a Sunday morning would probably be pretty darn light, since I doubt the shipyard had much work going on then.

    As others have said, being in a (pretty heavy-duty) maintenance period like this would mean the fire mains and other major fire-fighting systems offline (like having your car engine dismantled to replace the gaskets, piston rings, other big stuff) or even partially taken apart to be worked on. Welding, grinding even, other stuff can start a fire if something else doesn't (like a major electrical failure in a switchboard or something).

    All that said, normally you add in temporary systems to make up for this, such as having a fire-watch stationed wherever hotwork is going on, perhaps temporary fire-fighting systems added including a dedicated emergency backup diesel to run the pumps etc. It will be a while before we know what happened and why it happened when there should have been plans in place to prevent it.

    1. You can see their berthing barge aft-starboard in that pic (left center of the picture).


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