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Sailors didn't know what to do in USS Bonhomme Richard fire, Navy probe finds

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The Hill

Sailors didn't know what to do in USS Bonhomme Richard fire, Navy probe finds

By Ellen Mitchell

When a fire broke out aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard in July 2020, its sailors did not know how to react and its leaders didn't take control, a Navy investigation found.

The 400-page report, officially released on Wednesday, found that 36 individuals, including the ship's commander and five admirals, were responsible for numerous errors and breakdowns that followed after the vessel was purposely set on fire while it sat pier-side in San Diego.

“Although the fire was started by an act of arson, the ship was lost due to an inability to extinguish the fire,” the report said.

Once the blaze started, “the response effort was placed in the hands of inadequately trained and drilled personnel from a disparate set of uncoordinated organizations that had not fully exercised together and were unfamiliar with basic issues to include the roles and responsibilities of the various responding entities,” the document notes.

“Overall, this command investigation concluded that the loss of the ship was clearly preventable, and this is unacceptable,” Naval Operations Vice Chief Adm. Bill Lescher told reporters on Wednesday.  

The ship was docked at Naval Base San Diego for maintenance when the fire began on July 12 of last year. It burned for more than four days, injuring 63 people, including 40 sailors and 23 civilians, and rendering the ship unsalvageable.

The blaze was started in the Lower V space — which included such equipment as plywood pallets and CO2 bottles — but investigators found that there was confusion early on as to where it was and how to fight it.

A junior sailor who walked through the ship following her watch around 8:10 a.m. noticed a “hazy, white fog” but didn’t report it “because she did not smell smoke.”

Full story https://thehill.com/policy/defense/577670-sailors-didnt-know-what-to-do-in-uss-bonhomme-richard-fire-navy-probe-finds?rl=1