Fire Continues to Burn on USS Bonhomme Richard

Mike Schuler
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July 14, 2020

U.S. Navy helicopters continue fighting a fire on the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard at Naval Base San Diego, in San Diego, California, U.S. July 13, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Blake TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

The fire on board the U.S. Navy’s USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) continued to burn for a third straight day on Tuesday as firefighters battled to get the blaze under control.

According to a Tuesday afternoon update from Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck, Commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 3, the ship is currently stable and the structure itself remains safe. However, fire is still active and continues to be fought from both within and outside the ship from multiple access points.

“First, we have investigated the four main engineering spaces and found no major damage. There is no threat to the fuel tanks, which is well-below any active fires or heat sources,” said Rear Adm. Sobeck.

“HSC 3 helicopters have conducted more than 1,000 helicopter water bucket drops, which is cooling the super structure and flight deck enabling fire crews to get onboard internally to fight the fire. Tugs are also provide firefighting support from the waterline. I’m proud of the toughness of the Sailors and Federal Firefighters for making this significant progress possible,” Sobeck added.

As it stands currently, 61 personnel, including 38 U.S. Navy Sailors and 23 civilians, have been treated for minor injuries including heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation. None of the personnel are hospitalized at this time.

“Going forward, the Navy will do a thorough investigation of the incident to include assessing the cause of the fire and damage to the ship, but right now our focus remains on putting out the fire and keeping people safe,” said Sobeck. “I’d like to also thank our partners from state and county as well as the Coast Guard for monitoring the potential impacts to the environment. As we continue to fight the fire, we remain cognizant of environmental concerns regarding the water and air quality.

Sailors first reported a fire aboard the wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) while it was moored pier side at Naval Base San Diego on Saturday, July 12, at approximately 11:30 a.m. eastern daylight time. At approximately 4:00 p.m. the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and USS Russell (DDG 59) shifted berths to a pier further away from the fire.

Firefighting has been led by the Federal Fire Department San Diego and mor e400 Sailors from 12 San Diego-based ships. The U.S.Coast Guard is assessing environmental damage and pollution prevention.

Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron THREE (HSC 3)  has conducted more than 1,200 helicopter water bucket drops, which is cooling the super structure and flight deck to allow fire crews to get onboard to fight the fire. Tugs are also providing firefighting support from the waterline.

Update July 15:

As of 9:00 a.m. EDT July 15, firefighting teams continue operations on board USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), 63 personnel, 40 Sailors and 23 civilians, have been treated for minor injuries including heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation. Currently, there are no personnel hospitalized. Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 3 has conducted more than 1,500 helicopter water bucket drops, which are cooling the super-structure and flight deck, enabling fire crews to get onboard to fight the fire internally.

Photos published by the Navy show the extent of the damage observed so far:

SAN DIEGO (July 13, 2020) An MH-60S Seahawk helicopter from the “Merlins” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 3, provides aerial firefighting support alongside Sailors and civilian fire crews on the ground to fight the fire aboard amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). U.S. Navy Photo
SAN DIEGO (July 13, 2020) An MH-60S Seahawk helicopter from the “Merlins” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 3, provides aerial firefighting support alongside Sailors and civilian fire crews on the ground to fight the fire aboard amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). U.S. Navy Photo
SAN DIEGO (July 13, 2020) An MH-60S Seahawk helicopter from the “Merlins” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 3, provides aerial firefighting support alongside Sailors and civilian fire crews to fight the fire aboard amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). U.S. Navy Photo
SAN DIEGO (July 13, 2020) Two MH-60S Seahawk helicopters from the “Merlins” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 3, provide aerial firefighting support alongside Sailors and civilian fire crews on the ground to fight the fire aboard amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). U.S. Navy Photo
SAN DIEGO (July 13, 2020) An MH-60S Seahawk helicopter from the “Merlins” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 3, provides aerial firefighting support alongside Sailors and civilian fire crews on the ground to fight the fire aboard amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). U.S. Navy Photo
SAN DIEGO (July 13, 2020) A helicopter from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 3 combats a fire aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). U.S. Navy Photo
SAN DIEGO (July 13, 2020) An MH-60S helicopter from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 3 combats a fire aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). U.S. Navy Photo
SAN DIEGO (July 12, 2020) – Sailors and Federal Fire San Diego firefighters combat a fire aboard USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) July 12. U.S. Navy Photo
SAN DIEGO (July 12, 2020) A fire continues to be fought into the evening on board the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) at Naval Base San Diego, July 12. U.S. Navy Photo
SAN DIEGO (July 13, 2020) A helicopter from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 3 pours water on the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). U.S. Navy Photo
SAN DIEGO (July 13, 2020) Firefighter John Farrell, from Federal Fire Station 13 at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, emerges from USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). U.S. Navy Photo
SAN DIEGO (July 13, 2020) – Sailors and Federal San Diego Firefighters prepare to fight a fire on board USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) July 13. U.S. Navy Photo
200714-N-SS350-1050 SAN DIEGO (July 14, 2020) Sailors stand at attention and salute the national ensign during morning colors behind the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) at Naval Base San Diego, July 14 as the ship endures an ongoing fire. U.S. Navy Photo
SAN DIEGO (July 13, 2020) – Sailors and Federal San Diego Firefighters move to provide firefighting assistance on board USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) the morning of July 13. U.S. Navy Photo
SAN DIEGO (July 13, 2020) – Sailors and Federal San Diego Firefighters wait in formation to relieve hose teams aboard USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) on July 13. U.S. Navy Photo
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