Navy report on USS Bonhomme Richard fire finds sweeping failures

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The days-long fire in July 2020 that destroyed the USS Bonhomme Richard was preventable, according to a recent report from the Navy. 

A 400-page report, seen by The Associated Press, listed 17 officers and sailors whose actions directly caused the ship’s destruction and another 17 who contributed to its loss. 

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

The report also said that “repeated failures” from an “inadequately prepared crew” created “an ineffective fire response,” the AP reported.

The crew’s shortcomings ranged from overall command and control issues to insufficient training, communication, fire preparedness and maintenance problems. 

Specifically, the report said the crew did not know how to use the ship’s main fire fighting foam system, which was also poorly maintained. The system had a button to activate it, but the report said “no member of the crew interviewed considered this action or had specific knowledge as to the location of the button or its function,” according to the AP.

It added that 87 percent of the fire stations on the boat had various problems or had yet to be inspected. Fire alarms were not set off until 10 minutes after the blaze was discovered, the wire service also noted. 

At the time of the fire, the ship was in the middle of a two-year project worth $250 million to upgrade it.

One sailor was charged with arson earlier this year for his part in the fire that destroyed the assault ship.

The fire injured 63 people, including 40 sailors and 23 civilians, and rendered the ship unsalvageable.

The Navy decommissioned the boat in November of last year, a decision that will cost about $30 million. It will take between nine months and one year to scrap the boat.

The Hill has reached out to the Navy for comment.

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