Armed Forces News

The fire that ultimately destroyed the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard in July 2020 was preventable, according to formal inquiries into the incident – a U.S. Pacific Fleet Command Investigation and a Major Fires Review overseen by Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Lescher.

“The Navy is executing a deliberative process that includes taking appropriate accountability actions with respect to personnel assigned to Bonhomme Richard and the shore commands designed to support the ship while moored at Naval Base San Diego,” Lescher said.

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The Pacific Fleet investigation addressed four categories of factors that led to an “accumulation of significant risk” and ultimately a faulty fire response:

•      The ship’s material condition.
•      The training and readiness of the crew.
•      Integration between shipboard and shore-based firefighting organizations.
•      The commander’s oversight of all organizations, to include “a lack of familiarity with requirements and procedural noncompliance at multiple levels of command.”

In drawing these conclusions, the Pacific Fleet probe included more than 1,000 findings of fact, 139 recommendations, and a list of 36 persons – including flag-rank officers – who could face accountability actions. Additionally, the report recognized the “bravery, ingenuity and resourcefulness” of the sailors who fought the fire. 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 took place during the past 15 years. It concluded that “ineffective learning, the persistence of underlying weaknesses in shipboard watch-standing standards, hazardous and combustible material stowage, and training” contributed heavily into these incidents.

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