While authorities have been unable to determine precisely what caused a fire to break out on the U.S. Pacific Fleet admiral’s barge in May 2019, sending the vessel to the scrapyard, investigators have concluded that the fire likely started in the vessel’s electrical system near the pilot house, command officials confirmed this week.
The fire broke out early on May 19, 2019, while the vessel was moored at the Pacific Fleet boathouse.
According to PACFLEET spokesman Cmdr. Myers Vasquez, the fire is believed to have started around electrical panel connectors and the starboard battery charging conductors.
The damage to the barge, which was once a so-called “crash boat” refashioned into a vessel for high-level visits and command ceremonies, was deemed unrepairable.
The 63-foot-barge was built in 1957 and repurposed from a crash boat to the admiral’s barge in 1965, according to USCrashBoats.org, a site that chronicles the history of crash boats in the U.S. military.
The higher-ups it has hosted in recent years include former President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, who climbed aboard to visit Pearl Harbor’s USS Arizona Memorial in 2017, according to the site.
According to the site, the admiral’s barge was the last boat of its class still in Navy service.
Two other barges in the boathouse at the time of the fire, the deputy commander’s and the remembrance barge, suffered some hull and superstructure damage but were repaired for a total cost of more than $1 million and have since returned to service, Vasquez said.
While existing Navy inventory did not have a suitable vessel to replace the burned-out barge, a 78-foot-long replacement was procured and arrived in Pearl Harbor in January, Vasquez said.
Such barges have strict draft and height requirements and must be able to pass under the Ford Island bridge at Pearl Harbor, he said.
That new barge is nearly identical to one used at the U.S. Naval Academy and cost the Navy’s $550,000, which was the lowest price available based on the sea service’s requirements, Vasquez said.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.