USS Bonhomme Richard on Fire

In all honesty, once they lost the first two minutes you need to go big and hard. The hangar/well deck in one of those things is massive, and frankly between that size and the impingements in shutting down, they probably couldn't have saved her after the first couple of minutes.

It'll be easy to monday morning quarterback this, but frankly my heart goes out to the CO and his Ship's Company. This makes me feel genuinely queasy, and we're already re-reviewing our procedures to see how we can be a little bit better.

Plus the shipyard team. Lucky no-one killed, given the scale of the thing.
Lewis Page, Alex Clarke, et al are demanding that the UK purchase the hulk, clean her up, and convert her to a carrier with catapults etc.

The report of the investigation will be sobering reading and likely to identify multiple events or conditions that made her vulnerable. The saving grace is that no lives have been lost.

By the copper getting hot and causing secondary fires in things in contact with the cables?
Wholeheartedly agree; whoever ordered the crew not directly involved in firefighting to evacuate made the right call.


War Hero
So, in the circumstances that you have described above, what would you have done to try to contain the blaze? Was there a failure in USN damage control procedures?
Damage control procedures at sea are well drilled and rehearsed with a crew of people who are aware that there is nowhere to run to.

Fire in a dockyard with lots of dockyard mateys doing headless chicken impersonations is a different matter.

Plus as @alfred_the_great mentioned, it may not be possible to shut the box and contain the fire due to cables and equipment being in the way.
I only did the ship firefighting module on the JO's course at Moreton in Marsh and that really made me happy to be so far from the sea. I was one of the few to get out without injuries.

My future son in law's father died in the MV Pointsman fire in Milford Haven in 1984.


War Hero
This ship is the third one to carry the name. The first was commanded by John Paul Jones.

Jones's main claim to fame is that he served for two years as First Mate on a slaver.

It's clear, therefore, that this ship has links to slavery so it's understandable that there will be people who are justly aggrieved by its continued existence and will take righteous action to remove a ship with such strong racist vibes.
"I have not yet begun to firefight"
Plus during the height of the Vietnam war ...
[slight thread drift]
In the early 2000's my boss was an ex-sailor from USS Forrestall who was on board when that incident occurred. Many of his friends died in that fire and we often talked of the difference between fires onshore and at sea.
A terrible incident, hopefully never to be repeated.
[/slight thread drift]


Book Reviewer
E2A - there's been speculation from US guys I know that the vent trunking became a chimney, and moved the hot smoke around efficiently. The island is where there are significant amounts of cabins and offices, which won't have fixed firefighting and are stuff full of combustible material.
Also a suggestion (unconfirmed) that firefighting was complicated because the ship was shut down: so, no high pressure mains supply for firefighting, and the shorebased teams struggled to get hoses far enough into the ship.

Ships like Bonhomme Richard, which has an expansive flight and hangar deck to accommodate helicopters, tiltrotors and short-takeoff and landing jets, have built-in damage control and firefighting systems. Typically, “a shipboard fire counts upon the ship having engine and firepump capacity to fight the fire,” he said. “But if a ship is dead, not able to charge its firefighting systems, it makes it a world of difference harder.”
“That’s a problem you have with fighting a fire on ship. If you can’t use the shipboard fighting system, it is next to impossible to put that fire out because of the length you have to lay hoses into the vessel,” Mercogliano said, noting a typical firetruck has 1,000 feet of large diameter hose. Fire suppression requires water as well as types of foams designed to put out specific sources of fire fuels, he added, and a pier crowded with containers, pallets, heavy equipment and heavy lines also makes it difficult to pull close firefighting equipment including ladder trucks if needed.
I only did the ship firefighting module on the JO's course at Moreton in Marsh and that really made me happy to be so far from the sea. I was one of the few to get out without injuries.

My future son in law's father died in the MV Pointsman fire in Milford Haven in 1984.

The (second) RFA Sir Galahad had a fire and evacuation drill while in sunny climes, we all wanted a blast at being launched off the boat in the lifecraft. Our Doc won one of the spots.

The craft was successfully launched into the harbour where the engine promptly caught fire
The last time I can think of there was one this severe was probably Belknap in 75. But she was at least at sea, fully manned and able to close up.


Bonnie Dick appears much worse. More like Franklin from the end of the war - and in excess of Oriskany, Forrestal and Enterprise.


NAVSEA are going to have some serious studies on this for the next decade.
Jesus! I don’t think in 24+ years of Naval Firefighting I ever heard the option “let’s bring in helos to dump water on the fire” raised. That is desperate ground indeed.
"It was a water wall nozzle miracle"

"and a weda pump sir, with some guts behind it"
the two DDGs on the pier with her were sailed with just the duty watch to get them to a place of safety. Ballsy call, but done well. One of them was FITZGERALD.

I think this is not going to end well.
I’m curious, what would be the minimum crew needed to move a destroyer under her own power the other side of the harbour? My guess would be OOW, helmsman, lookouts on the bridge, comms bloke, mooring crews fore & aft, team in the engine room. Maybe 15-20 or so overall?

To what degree are ships in port kept at readiness to move? Say a three week leave period at home port, is there a crew on board at all times with the minimum skills to move the ship in the event of something like this? Not much good if you have 15 blokes on board and they’re all weapons engineers, medics and chefs and the flat top down the quay goes up like this. Or is that just a risk that the Navy lives with and ships blokes in to move ships if necessary? I’d imagine it would take a bit of time to make sure the ship is ready to move, there could be all kinds of stores unsecured, take time to spin up the engines and generators etc.
Most of the real work is done by the stokers to get her to flash up. It isn't the case of putting the keys into the ignition and putting her into neutral. I'd imagine (Not knowing the checklist myself) there would be processes to come off shore power, turn on generated power and bring up the voltage then spin up the engine power in a measured way to prevent bad things happening. All whilst being shouted at by a chief stoker with a sore head and a MEO hoping to christ all the spares were put away properly after last maintenance.


War Hero
Ship would probably be using shoreside power supply if generators shut down for maintenance. This would only cover hotel loads e.g. heating, lighting and a few power tools etc.

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