Thursday, October 21, 2021

FIRE

I read as much as I could stomach of the report on the fire on USS Bonhomme Richard. It racked everybody for their failures to understand and deal with fires on warships. I mean it hit everybody except perhaps the Navy Image of it's New Woke Self. What I read was a damning indictment but it stopped short of saying that the culture of the Navy itself was to blame. I'm pretty sure the current USN bears little resemblance to the one I served in back in, say, 1988. It was a warzone but you never heard of it. However, the training there was indistinguishable (nice fire word, see how I worked it in....) from the training I mandated on my stateside ship in San Diego. Both ships were old and made of wood and soaked in fuel and lube oil for decades. Consequently, I took fire very seriously and made sure everyone else did too. There was a full scale fire drill every single day. Sometimes 2 or 3 times. Every single time I shut down an engine at the end of the day it was a full scale casualty control drill. Every day I sat in the wardroom and briefed the members of both the Damage Control Training Team and the Engineering Casualty Control Team about what we were going to do to the crew. The only bit of non-realism allowed in the drills was that the men who made up the training teams would be the actual ones in charge when we actually had a fire but this way everyone knew the drill and the DCCT and ECCT played it as real as it gets. We charged fire hoses because maneuvering a charged hose is way different than moving around a flacid uncharged hose. We briefed the team to be 'ON THE SPOT' to keep the crew from lighgting off the devestating fire fighting systems but we wanted their hands to be reaching for the activation switches in every drill whether it was HALON, CO2 or twin agent fire fighting foam. Switchboards got stripped and it was as real as it could be short of an actual fire.

We had a quarterly fire fighting assessment from our Group Staff. We actually passed one inspection as the inspector was walking down the long pier to our ship at the distant end away from the Admiral Kidd Club. There was an electrical fire that broke out as he stepped on the pier and the Officer of the Deck passed the word promptly over the shipwide announcing system. Fire Fire Fire......blah. Class C fire in the blah blah. Then he was phoned by the Electrician of the Watch that power had been secured, He passed that word as the Senior Chief Damage Control man walked up the pier and then passed the word that the fire was out and the reflash watch was set.

If I had timed it exactly as a drill it could not have been better. I knew this all because I was walking down the pier with the Senior Chief having met him in the parking lot. We played inspections like the game they were and gamed the hell out of them but this one was real life. He took inventory of our Repair Lockers and announced himself satisfied before lunch and we went out for a few pitchers at Pure Platinum. What a nice emporium that was. Our sister ship spent the next 2 days trying to pass the same inspection. It was ugly.

The fire fault finding is detailed. It's worth a look if you're in the prevention business. Every single aspect of 'prevention' was unsatisfactory and the sad reality is that it probably still is on every ship in the USN. Training an entire crew of everyone in damage control is made harder when fewer and fewer of them are up to the rigors of it and dismiss it as somebody else's problem. You know, something for the turd chasers to deal with. I'd extinguish that kind of attitude immediately but it is the manifestation from the aviation dets translated over to the pure crew. Not my problem. I think we now have a lot more ship riders than crew on our ships. When I saw the article about how over-officered they were I was stunned. Too many officers not enough indians is the definition of stepping into disasters unseen and unprepared for because it was 'someone else's job.'

6 comments:

  1. I served aboard the USS Forrestal (CV 59) in 1990-91. I'm sure you've heard of it. You'd damned sure better believe we took firefighting training seriously. We had 134 names on a plaque in the hangar bay to remind us of the consequences of not doing so.
    --Tennessee Budd

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    1. Fire in the uptakes and yeah, that was the one I mentioned without the ship name as, we were there as a tiny MSO to help fight a giant fire 5 miles off the coast of SOCAL.

      I knew what the hell it was and those guys OBAs were probably lasting about 15 minutes One of the things I liked about the Navy of then, was you walked into an oil fired fire and you knew you were in Hell. I would wonder how they prettied that up for the girls but watching us lose so many people in flooding caused by negligence and the loss of the BHR, I don't really wonder. The Navy simply stopped teaching Damage Control. You see, they learned a tiny lesson, those dinosaurs, no ship built to Navy specs can be lost by fire or most accidents and they just carried on. I was barely a Navy officer when the Kennedy mod became a fleet function and that cruiser was utterly destroyed but stayed afloat.

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  2. Unfortunately, the "not my problem ", mindset has permeated everywhere.It's getting hard, just to get people to do the barest minimum of work. They want to be paid just for showing up!

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  3. The sailors of today would have no idea what to do on a BUNKER HILL, a FRANKLIN, or a LAFFEY.

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  4. I remember under the dummy that we were in SOCAL doing some training when a carrier caught fire out there. MY CO was a first class idiot and insisted on proceeding to the scene to offer, as I recall 148 OBA cannisters which was the total of what we had in our repair lockers. 148 OBA cannisters for a carrier on fire from top to bottom. Their helos were bringing in thousands. He topped the list of the most stupid officers I ever worked for. I mean who comes in every day at 0500 to proofread the plan of the day that has already been published and went under 4 hour review by him the day earlier. Can we just say that only chiefs read the POD and leave it at that except to note that that particular ship only had 2 chiefs on it.

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