Report: Bonhomme Fire Preventable

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The blaze that ultimately destroyed the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard in July 2020 was preventable, according to official investigations into the incident – an investigation by the U.S. Pacific Fleet Command and a review of major fires overseen by the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Bill Lescher.

“The Navy performs a deliberative process that includes taking appropriate accountability measures with respect to personnel assigned to Bonhomme Richard and shore-based controls designed to support the ship docked at Naval Base San Diego,” said Lescher.

The Pacific Fleet investigation focused on four categories of factors that led to a “build-up of significant risk” and, ultimately, a flawed fire response:

• The condition of the ship’s materials.
• Crew training and preparation.
• Integration between onboard and shore-based firefighting organizations.
• Commander oversight of all organizations, including “unfamiliarity with requirements and non-compliance with procedures at multiple levels of command”.

In drawing these conclusions, the Pacific Fleet investigation included more than 1,000 findings of fact, 139 recommendations and a list of 36 people – including senior officers – who could be subject to liability action. Additionally, the report recognized the “bravery, ingenuity and ingenuity” of the sailors who fought the blaze. Ten will likely receive meritorious performance recommendations.

The major fires review included the Bonhomme Richard incident in a comprehensive overview of 15 major Navy ship fires that have occurred in the past 15 years. He concluded that “ineffective learning, the persistence of underlying weaknesses in on-board watch standards, stowage of hazardous materials and fuels and training” strongly contributed to these incidents.

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