Watch: Naval Historian Breaks Down USS Bonhomme Richard Initial Fire and Response

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July 16, 2020

Boats combat a fire on board the U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard at Naval Base San Diego, California, U.S. July 12, 2020. Picture taken July 12, 2020. U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christina Ross/Handout via REUTERS

On the morning of Sunday, July 12, 2020, at 8:50 AM PDT, USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) moored at Naval Base San Diego, Pier 2 reported a fire in the lower (Deep V) vehicle deck. The ship activated the emergency response system and a 3-alarm fire was triggered resulting in the dispatch of fire units from Federal, National City, and San Diego Fire Departments, along with crews from neighboring ships.

Over the course of the day, the fire grew in intensity, the crews were forced to withdraw due to explosions, and the conflagration spread the length of the entire deck.

In the video below, Dr. Salvatore Mercogliano examines the visual evidence of the first day and discusses his assessment of the fire, how it spread throughout the ship, and response by the ship’s crew, shore and afloat fire apparatuses.

Sal Mercogliano is a naval and maritime historian, a former merchant mariner with sea and ashore experience with the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command, and certified fire fighter with 20 years experience as Captain of his local volunteer fire department. He works as a tenured an associate professor of history at Campbell University in Buies Creek, North Carolina.

As Sal notes, this is an early examination of the event as fires still smolder on board the ship and an investigation of the fire is underway. All the opinions expressed are his own based on the evidence as they are known at the time of the recording.

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