More sailors treated for minor injuries as fire still burns aboard USS Bonhomme Richard

Sailors remove their firefighting ensembles after battling a fire aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard at Naval Base San Diego.


By CAITLIN M. KENNEY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 15, 2020

WASHINGTON — Sixty-three people have now been treated for minor injuries as the fire aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard burns for a fourth day.

As of Wednesday morning, 40 sailors and 23 civilians have been treated for minor injuries including heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation while fighting the fire aboard the amphibious assault ship at Naval Base San Diego, Navy officials said in a statement.

No sailors injured Wednesday went to a hospital, the service said.

Helicopters with water baskets from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 3 have now dumped more than 1,500 buckets of water on the ship to cool it and allow firefighters to battle the fire onboard, according to the Navy. The helicopters have been assisting with the effort since Monday morning.

More than 400 sailors from 12 San Diego-based ships are part of the effort to stop the fire, the Navy said. Those ships include the USS Bonhomme Richard, the USS Fitzgerald, the USS Abraham Lincoln and the USS Cowpens.

The cause of the fire is still unknown, but Navy officials believe the fire started in the cargo hold where supplies were being stored as the ship underwent maintenance at the naval base. The fire was first reported at about 8:30 a.m. Sunday and about 160 sailors were onboard at the time.

One of the ship’s fire suppression systems was not operational when the fire started because it too was being worked on in the shipyard, according to Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck, the commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 3, which includes the Bonhomme Richard.

Firefighters attempted to use an aqueous film-forming foam system to control the fire but an explosion on the ship forced personnel to evacuate the area, Sobeck said Tuesday. The system uses foam to rapidly extinguish fires, according to the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory.

As of late Tuesday, firefighters were still combating two fires on different ends of the ship, Sobeck said.

“There is no threat to the fuel tanks, which are well below any active fires or heat sources. The ship is stable, and the structure is safe,” he said.

Twitter: @caitlinmkenney

Sailors disconnect hoses in the well deck of the USS Bonhomme Richard in support of firefighting efforts on July 14, 2020.

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