It was a typical Monday morning aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68). The ship’s executive officer had just come over the ship’s internal announcement system telling the crew to “Fire it up!” and man their cleaning stations for the daily cleaning routine.
Logistics Specialist 2nd Class James Murphy, from Spokane, Washington, was busy sweeping up his workspace inside of the post office when he noticed something wasn’t right. “I smelled something burning and when I looked over to the cabinet in the corner, I saw smoke coming out the top of it,” said Murphy.
Sailors aboard the ship train weekly for just such instances. Every week a general quarters style training environment is instituted. During these training evolutions Sailors don their casualty fighting gear while working through multiple staged scenarios including responding to fire, flood or chemical attacks.
Thanks to this training, Murphy knew he had to investigate the smoke.
“First I hovered my hand over the handle to see if it was hot, then I opened the cabinet and saw there were flames,” said Murphy. “I told someone to call for the flying squad and I went to go find an extinguisher to put out the fire.”
Thankfully, Murphy’s call for help did not go unanswered.
“When LS2 Murphy called out to me that there was a fire, I knew it was important that I get in contact with Damage Control Central right away so that they could send help,” said Logistics Specialist 3rd Class Michael Zegarra, from Miami.
As the other Sailors on the ship continued to work their brooms and crank their tunes, another less familiar call came over the internal announcement system, a series of loud alarm bells rang out followed by the call “Fire, fire, fire, class alpha fire reported in the post office, away the flying squad, away.”
Within minutes, the Sailors that make up the at-sea fire party, or “flying squad”, were in the post office ready to fight to save the ship. It was when they arrived that they found the quick thinking crew inside of the post office had successfully extinguished the flames.
“The flying squad came in and secured the scene,” Murphy said. “They made sure the fire was completely out and assessed any other potential hazard that may have been present.”
The Fire Marshal determined it was a battery that caused the cabinet to ignite. This near miss has caused everyone aboard Nimitz, including the commanding officer, to refocus their training and attention to proper equipment storage. The CO has directed all-hands training on the subject so that instances like these may be avoided in the future.
Murphy feels it was similar training that prevented the fire from becoming a true catastrophe.
“I felt like I knew what to do and how to react without really thinking about it, it was almost like a muscle memory,” said Murphy. “It proved to me that all the training we do every week is really important. You never really think it can happen, but it can. Thanks to the training I feel I was able to respond quickly.”
As the Sailors man their brooms for their evening sweep down they do so with the knowledge that the day’s events could have had a much less positive outcome. Complacency can be one of the biggest enemies any ship can face, but thanks to the diligence of a few, this crew remains ready to fight another day.
Nimitz is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. While in this region, the ship and strike group are conducting maritime security operations to reassure allies and partners, preserve freedom of navigation, and maintain the free flow of commerce.
Story by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Maddux