Carrier on Fire

Everyone pretty much knows of the fire aboard USS Forrestal.

And most know of the fire aboard USS Enterprise.

And lots even know of the fire aboard USS Oriskany.

But I’ll admit, I didn’t know about the fire on board Constellation before she was even commissioned.

Carriers are tough ships. But they’re also virtual playgrounds for fire. Lots of fuel, explosives, and other flammable materiel in a warren of compartments. You’re thinking to yourself, well, they’re made of steel, how hard can it be to put out a fire? Virtually everything aboard a ship besides the steel will burn, given enough heat and oxygen. Furniture, bedding, clothing, paint, mattresses, paper, wire conduits, insulation, everything.

And fighting a fire shipboard is awful. The same compartmentalization that keeps a ship afloat with flooding means that smoke and heat have no place to escape. Thousands of tons of water have to be used to not just knock down flames, but thoroughly drench and cool anything that might flash back to flame.  Getting cut off from a viable escape route is very easy, and running out of air can happen almost instantaneously.

One small error aboard Constellation lead to a fire that killed 50 shipyard workers.

Safety first.

Thanks to gCaptain. You might wanna click that link to learn the tale of the USNS Harlan Sanders.

7 thoughts on “Carrier on Fire”

  1. “Fire is the demon that stalks the Carrier.”
    > Quote from unknown Fire Fighting and Damage Control teacher Norfolk Navy Base Circa 1970<

  2. A Man or woman can drown in a ship that is not sinking while trapped in a compartment 65 feet above the water from water sprayed to contain a fire on the Flight Deck. Water pours on the fire and down any cracks or holes in the hull or pipe and wire ways, it has no where to go and if you are trapped by fire or steel and debris you will watch the water fill up your steel room.
    The water is going to be heated by the fire, filled with fuel and other junk.
    You will be electrocuted if the water hits power wires that have been burned clean of insulation while standing in steaming water.
    Of all the most spectacular ways to die being on a burning aircraft carrier is up near the top of the list, nothing blows up like a Navy Warship on fire.

  3. We lost the USS LAFAYETTE, ( the liner NORMANDIE ), when she was being refitted into an AP, when some welders were to lazy to stretch a 2 1/2 ” line to where they were cutting decorative stanchions out of the main saloon, because it would take too long to do. Sparks from the cutting set fire to the burlap wrappings of the 20,000 kapok life jackets being stored in the salon. The man who grabbed the water bucket that they DID brink, knocked it over , and then they panicked. A charged 2 1/2″ would have knocked the fire down immediately. The Navy had removed almost all the French Line fire equipment, as they were going to refit with USN equipment, so only a few hoses remained, and the land line to FDNY was disconnected. So, the most beautiful liner ever made burned because of carelessness.

  4. Don’t forget Bennington (CV-20) which suffered an explosion in the HP catapult hydraulic fluid. The explosion, the resulting fire, and secondaries killed 103 and injured more than 200. 26 May 1954 in Narragansett Bay out of Quonset Point, RI.

  5. Fire sinks more ships than any other. Lots of bad things happen, whether tied to the pier or at sea. This yard bird is accutely aware of what can happen from a moments carelessness. I’m currently have a fight with our safety people about wearing dark tinted face shields while fire watching. Stupid, stupid stupid. You MIGHT protect your eyes from UV or IR burn…but there’s a chance you WON’T see the small fire few feet away from the welder/burner until it gets to be a big fire.

  6. BUNKER HILL; WASP; PRINCETON; HORNET, and LEXINGTON were all lost to fire.

  7. We used to call Forrestal “USS Zippo.” I’d heard a rumor they didn’t hold fire drills because they had the real thing daily. I guy I knew at Church had been stationed on here and said that was almost true.

    Sylvania was tied up across the pier from Zippo for two weeks in ’74 and sho ’nuff they had a real fire every day. When I was standing quarterdeck watch one evening, the QDWO and I wondered why on earth there weren’t some reliefs for cause. The only reason they could have had that many fires was carelessness or arson.

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