Up tempo operations had lead to a shortage of ordnance and the day before there had been a delivery of old bombs from Subic Bay, some dating back to 1953. These bombs had been stored outside for years and were so obviously degraded that some officers wanted to dump them overboard immediately.
Instead they were kept with plans to use them the next day. It was a brutally bad decision.
The fire started by the accidental discharge of Zuni rockets across the deck. The rockets tore open the fuel tanks on an A-4 and ignited the fuel. The deck crews should have had 10 minutes to extinguish the fire before the bombs would have be at risk. The first of the old bombs detonated in a minute and half. Those first detonations killed most of the trained firefighters on the ship.
134 died, 161 were injured. They nearly lost the ship.
Non Sibi Sed Patriae
--Inscribed over the Doors of the Chapel at the Naval Academy