Military

ATF Agents Probing Guided-Missile Destroyer’s Suspicious Fire

December 29, 2022Carl Prine
Arson experts from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives in Tampa have joined the probe into what sparked a blaze on board the guided-missile destroyer Carney at Naval Station Mayport in Florida on Dec. 23, 2022. US Navy photo.

Arson experts from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives in Tampa have joined the probe into what sparked a blaze on board the guided-missile destroyer Carney at Naval Station Mayport in Florida on Dec. 23, 2022. US Navy photo.

The ATF is now probing the Dec. 23 blaze on board the US Navy’s guided-missile destroyer Carney.

Officials from both the Navy and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Tampa confirmed to Coffee or Die Magazine that federal forensic experts and special agents are working with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service to figure out what sparked the fire, including whether a sailor lit it.

“The Navy is leveraging all available resources during this investigation, to include support from partner agencies,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jason S. Fischer, the spokesperson for Naval Surface Force Atlantic, in an email to Coffee or Die.

Fischer said the probe “is progressing.”

ATF

The Navy preaches that damage control and firefighting are duties of every sailor on board a vessel, regardless of rank or rating, and sailors frequently train on how to battle a blaze, like these shipmates on board the guided-missile destroyer Carney while it was underway in the Mediterranean Sea on April 21, 2020. A fire erupted on board Carney while it was pierside at Naval Station Mayport on Dec. 23, 2022, but the crew put it out before first responders arrived. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Austin G. Collins.

The Arleigh Burke-class Carney was pierside at its Florida homeport at Naval Station Mayport when watchstanders discovered the fire at approximately 3:43 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 23, inside the vessel’s tiny learning and recreation classroom.

Although the warship’s crew drew praise from Navy leaders for quickly extinguishing the flames before Jacksonville first responders arrived, smoke inhalation from the blaze sent six sailors to Baptist Beach Hospital for medical evaluation and treatment.

All were quickly returned to duty.

Although ATF’s Tampa Field Division is located on the opposite side of the Sunshine State, its agents cover 80% of Florida, including Jacksonville. The office in Miami gets South Florida and the Caribbean. 

ATF

Officers and crew of the guided-missile destroyer Carney drew praise for executing a perfect Chapter 12 fire drill on board the warship on Feb. 11, 2022, while it was undergoing maintenance at Naval Station Mayport in Florida. US Navy photos.

Investigators also continue to probe a Nov. 29 fire on board the Nimitz-class aircraft Abraham Lincoln while it sailing roughly 30 nautical miles off the Southern California coast. That blaze sent nine sailors to sick bay, but they also were quickly returned to duty after being treated for what 3rd Fleet officials said were “minor injuries.”

The Navy preaches that damage control and firefighting are duties of every sailor on board a vessel, regardless of rank or rating, and sailors frequently train on how to battle a blaze.

It remains unclear what triggered the inferno that consumed the $1.2 billion amphibious warship Bonhomme Richard while it was pierside in San Diego in 2020.

Military officials charged Seaman Recruit Ryan Mays with torching the Wasp-class warship. On Sept. 30 in San Diego, however, Navy judge Capt. Derek Butler found him not guilty at court-martial.

Wielding administrative sanctions, the Navy brass punished 28 personnel — including the vessel’s enlisted command master chief, two captains, and a retired three-star admiral, “SWO Boss” Vice Adm. Richard Brown, who was the commander of the US Pacific Fleet’s Naval Surface Forces — for how Bonhomme Richard’s shipmates responded to the fire.

Read Next: Navy Santa Spreads Xmas Cheer to Sailors on High-Year Tenure List

Carl Prine
Carl Prine

Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

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