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MARCH 2021

USS Kearsarge Catches Fire Just Days USS BonHomme Richard Extinguished


USS Kearsarge Catches Fire Just Days USS BonHomme Richard Extinguished

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On July 17th, a “rapidly extinguished” fire aboard yet another US warship caused the US Navy to issue a “stop work order” to General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in Norfolk.

The warship in question is the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge.

The incident started when a spark from welding landed on nearby material, which was then quickly put out by the fire watch.

“Fire Watch” is a sailor or contractor who stands nearby with a fire hose and/or extinguisher to stop a larger blaze in its tracks.

In a statement, Naval Sea Systems Command spokesman Rory O’Connor said the “stop work” was to ensure the company followed fire safety protocols.

“On July 17, the Navy was informed of a fire aboard USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), currently conducting a Selected Restricted Availability at General Dynamics NASSCO – Norfolk,” O’Connor said.

“The fire was quickly extinguished by the fire watch and resulted in minimal damage. In response to this incident, the Navy has issued a stop work order for all ships in maintenance availabilities at GD NASSCO Norfolk to ensure compliance with all established fire protocols and procedures.”

Defense News spoke to Anthony Paolino, a General Dynamics NASSCO spokesman and it was confirmed that the incident involved an ember landing on plastic, causing it to melt and smoke, but said there was no larger fire.

Allegedly, NASSCO was already reviewing its safety protocols prior to the “stop work” order, and that it fully supported the Navy’s ongoing safety stand down in the wake of this week’s fire aboard Bonhomme Richard, Paolino said.

It is noteworthy that just days earlier, the USS BonHomme Richard was almost entirely destroyed in a fire, and it is the same Wasp-class amphibious assault ship as the USS Kearsarge.

In an interview with Defense News, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday said the Navy was preparing to launch dual investigations into the fire on Bonhomme Richard: A safety investigation, which are generally not released to the public so that witnesses can feel free to speak openly, and a more formal administrative investigation, which generally comes with disciplinary recommendations and are releasable to the public.

Once those investigations are finished, Gilday will determine whether a broader examination of the Navy’s culture is necessary.

“This is a very, very serious incident that I think will force the Navy to stand back and reevaluate itself,” Gilday said. “We’ve got to follow the facts, we’ve got to be honest with ourselves and we’ve got to get after it. My intention, once the investigations are done, is to make this available for the public to debate, including what we need to do to get after any systemic problems that we might have.”

It would appear that the general focus in the United States is currently on fighting racism and discrimination of any sort, and fire safety appears to be on the back foot. Both these fires, within the same week, show a gross neglect of safety protocols (if they are effective to begin with).




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