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Carrier Consumed By Combustible Crud
by James Dunnigan
June 26, 2008

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Bad maintenance bit the U.S. Navy once more, when a fire broke out, on May 22nd, near a major ventilation conduit in the rear of the carrier USS George Washington. That conduit not only circulates air to compartments below the waterline, but also contains pipes carrying large numbers of electrical and communications cables. These lit up and before the fire was completely put out (it took twelve hours), over 120,000 meters (nearly 400,000 feet) of cables were damaged or destroyed. Over fifty spaces (compartments) were damaged. The full extent of the damage is not yet known, thus the USS Kitty Hawk, which the George Washington was on its way to relieve, may have to stay in the western Pacific for weeks, or months, until the Washington is good to go.

The fire was caused by improper storage of combustible material. This is a common problem when a ship is setting off on a long cruise, and there's lots of stuff to be stored away. The Washington was moving around the southern tip of South America when the fire broke out. Had the combustible material not been there, the fire would not have lasted as long, done as much damage, or perhaps even started at all.

Over the last year, major ship inspections (by teams sent in by higher commands) have found increasing evidence of lower standards and poor work habits in the U.S. Navy. The navy is still trying to find, and fix, all the causes of this problem. Meanwhile, they have the fire on the Washington to remind that the problem is still there.

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