As the loss of the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) and USS Miami (SSN-755) illustrate, in-port fires are more challenging than at-sea fires. At sea, a ship can muster every sailor within minutes of a fire’s ignition. In port, assuming eight-hour workdays and a two-day weekend, the full crew is present only about a quarter of the time (less after deducting crew members who are at schools, trainers, or riding other ships). Since 2008, 11 of 13 major in-port fires (identified by the Naval Safety Center), including those on the Miami and Bonhomme Richard, occurred outside normal working hours.1 Thus, only the duty section likely will respond to most in-port fires. Assuming four-section duty, this might be only a fifth of the entire crew—less for ships with more sections.2
1. Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, and Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Major Fires Review Executive Summary (Department of the Navy, 15 July 2021), 16. The review examined 15 major fires, but 2 occurred while underway conducting normal operations.
2. Some ships are up to eight sections. VADM Scott D. Conn, USN, to Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, 5 April 2021, Memo N00/156, “Command Investigation into the Circumstances Surrounding the Fire Onboard USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) on or about 12 July 2020,” Findings of Fact 554 (hereafter cited as Bonhomme Richard JAGMAN). See also Major Fires Review, 21.
3. Major Fires Review, 8, 10–11, 19.
4. Major Fires Review, 8.
5. Bonhomme Richard JAGMAN, Opinions 23, 92, 219.
6. Commander, Naval Sea Systems Command, to Distribution, 20 May 2013, Ser 00/C002, Subj: “Final Command Investigation into the Fire that Occurred Onboard USS Miami (SSN-755) at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on 23 May 2012,” Enclosure (1), Findings of Fact 148, 182. Hereafter cited as Miami JAGMAN.
7. Major Fires Review, 23, 26.
8. Major Fires Review, 23, 33.
9. Major Fires Review, 10.
10. Major Fires Review, 14, 25.
11. Miami JAGMAN, Findings of Fact 126, 146, Opinions 18.e.
12. Bonhomme Richard JAGMAN, executive summary, 9–11.
13. Major Fires Review, 57.
14. Major Fires Review, 27, 33.
15. Major Fires Review, 54.
16. Bonhomme Richard JAGMAN, Findings of Fact 420, 422, 462, 480, and 490; Opinions 13. This observation also is based on personal experience.
17. Major Fires Review, 51.
18. Major Fires Review, 51.
19. Miami JAGMAN, Opinions 18.d.
20. Major Fires Review, 46, 31.
21. Bonhomme Richard JAGMAN, Opinions 17, 208.
22. Bonhomme Richard JAGMAN, Findings of Fact 94.