July 14, 2020
Fire on USS Bonhomme Richard May Have Been Preventable by Swedish FlameRanger Technology
A tragic fire broke out on June 12 on the USS Bonhomme Richard aircraft carrier in San Diego, while docked and being retrofitted to deploy the latest generation of fighter jets. According to AP News, the blaze “broke out in a lower cargo area where cardboard and drywall supplies were stored”.
Two days later, the fire continues to blaze and the ship’s fate is uncertain. Fortunately, all of the relatively small crew of about 160 sailors onboard, have been accounted for, although some have suffered severe injuries.
A Swedish high-tech robotic nozzle technology manufacturer, Unifire AB, has developed a solution, called FlameRanger™, that possibly could have mitigated or even extinguished the fire at an early stage..
FlameRanger is a sophisticated, fully automatic fire detection and suppression system. It is comprised of two flame detectors and high-volume robotic nozzles (also known as “water cannons” or “firefighting monitors”). The flame detectors detect flames in seconds and the system is able to triangulate the three-dimensional size and position of the fire and accurately guide a large volume of water or foam directly onto the fire—all within seconds of the fire breaking out.
According to Unifire spokesman, Roger Barrett James, “Unifire developed the FlameRanger to autonomously and fully automatically detect and combat precisely this type of fire. The system responds in seconds and is able to dynamically fight fires much as would a human firefighter operating a remote controlled water cannon. In fact, the US Navy successfully tested the system in 2015 for the fire protection of Large Volume Spaces (LVS’s) on Naval vessels. In those tests, the system rapidly detected, located and suppressed multiple fires. Remarkably, the automatic function was able to extinguish a test fire faster and with less water than a human fighting the same size fire using a joystick to operate the same water cannon used by the automatic system.”
In addition to the fully automatic response, the FlameRanger system can be remotely controlled by human operators over a secure network connection, from anywhere in the world. This feature provides firefighters an additional tool to combat a fire remotely and safely via a live view from a CCTV camera.
Mr. James expects, “that in the near future, Naval vessels and many other large spaces will be protected by fully automatic robotic nozzle systems like the FlameRanger, as the technology is now well-proven, extremely cost-effective, and could possibly prevent catastrophic events like the USS Bonhomme fire.”
FlameRanger is also currently undergoing evaluation and testing for the protection of weather decks on ro-ro ships under the LASH FIRE research project. A video of recent tests of the system can be viewed in the news section of the project’s website at lashfire.eu. The LASH FIRE project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement nº 814975.