Navy creates fire safety group to prevent fires like the one that destroyed USS Bonhomme Richard

USS Bonhomme Richard in flames at Naval Base San Diego in July 2020. Navy photo

The US Navy has formed a fire safety group to prevent disasters like the local fire that destroyed the USS Bonhomme Richard last year.

Naval Sea Systems Command announced the establishment of the Industrial Fire Safety Assurance Group this month. The team has “a clear objective on preventing future industrial fires on board ships and reducing the risks highlighted in investigations of previous fires.”

According to NAVSEA, over the past 12 years, the Navy has experienced 14 major shipboard fires that have resulted in the loss of two capital vessels, while costing the service $ 6 billion in repair and replacement costs.

One of those losses, that of Bonhomme Richard, occurred at Naval Base San Diego, where an alleged arson destroyed the amphibious assault ship in July 2020.

The ship was undergoing a $ 249 million upgrade over two years when a fire broke out in a lower storage area. Nearly 60 sailors suffered various injuries, including heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation, as the five-day fire raged.

An October report found “repeated failures” in firefighting training and readiness doomed the ship. A total of 17 officers, crew and civilian employees were cited for failures that directly led to the loss of Bonhomme Richard; 17 others are said to have contributed to the disaster.

On Monday, the sailor accused of setting the fire, Ryan Mays, faces an Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a preliminary hearing.

The Navy’s new fire safety team will be responsible for analyzing fire measures on board industrial ships and developing actions to address and reduce these risks. Officials said the electric fires were a potential “top offender”.

The group, which is slated to open a “war room” this month, will report to Vice Admiral William Galinis and Executive Director Giao Phan.

“Fires on board ships in an industrial environment cannot be considered an acceptable cost of doing business,” said Eric Duncan, team director.

The Navy disarmed Bonhomme Richard in April.

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