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Hue City XO ousted after report on ship fire

Jun. 26, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Lt. Cmdr. John Liddle was fired from his post as executive officer of the cruiser Hue City on Thursday.
Lt. Cmdr. John Liddle was fired from his post as executive officer of the cruiser Hue City on Thursday. (Navy)
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The executive officer of the cruiser Hue City is out of a job after being fired by his strike group boss for failing to ensure his crew properly stowed hazardous materials that caught on fire in April, days into their deployment.

Lt. Cmdr. John Liddle was found guilty at mast “for failure to comply with procedures that could have prevented the fire,” Fleet Forces Command said in a Thursday news release.

Liddle was removed from command by Rear Adm. Vic Mercado, head of Carrier Strike Group 8, on Thursday after a nonjudicial punishment hearing.

The April 14 fire seared through several levels of the Mayport, Florida-based cruiser and caused more than $23 million in damages.

The ship’s commanding officer, Capt. Wyatt Chidester, who checked on board only a month before the fire, has not been disciplined.

Liddle, a 1999 Naval Academy graduate whose first command was the cruiser Princeton, has served as weapons officer, then a combat systems officer, on the destroyer Mason. He has also served on the staff of the chief of naval operations and at U.S. Central Command headquarters. Liddle did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Thursday.

The fire was caused by stowing flammable materials in the uptakes, which pump heated exhaust from the main engineering spaces out of the ship, FFC said in the release.

The ship departed on an independent deployment to 6th Fleet on April 11 and was 200 nautical miles northeast of Bermuda when the fire broke out.

Initial reports said the fire began in the No. 1 gas turbine generator in the No. 1 main engine room and spread through the ship via the uptakes, including the first and third decks. In addition, Hue City’s superstructure showed signs of scorching on the skin of the ship as high up as the ship’s O-4 level.

The crew fought the blaze for more than an hour and a half before all fires were doused, according the initial report.

In late May, the Navy awarded a $23.2 million contract to Earl Industries to perform “extensive aluminum welding,” repairs that are scheduled to take nearly six months. All told, the Hue City will be out of commission for nearly eight months.

The ship needed to be in shape by early 2015 to meet “hard battle group commitments” — suggesting the Hue City will need to get out of the yards to deploy on time, Naval Sea Systems Command said in the contract solicitation.

Meanwhile, an official investigation into the fire remains ongoing, said FFCspokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Reann Mommsen.

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