After more than four long days of fighting a 1,200 degree blaze, the fires are finally out on the USS Bonhomme Richard. The origin of the fire and the extent of the damage to the ship remains unknown.
The conflagration started on Sunday, July 12 at approximately 8:30am (PST) when sailors reported a fire aboard the vessel that was moored pier side at Naval Base San Diego. It quickly became a 3 alarm fire requiring a multitude of people to battle it.
Some 160 people were onboard the vessel when the fire started and all crew were quickly accounted for. A total of 63 personnel, 40 U.S. Navy Sailors and 23 civilians were treated for minor injuries, including heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation.
The fire had raged on the flight deck and brought down one of the ship’s masts that held its radar and communications equipment. The ship’s massive hangar bay was gutted as the fire reached up to 1200 degrees throughout the interior of the ship. The temperatures were dropped to as low as 125 degrees.
Federal Fire San Diego was the on-scene lead for firefighting efforts on Naval Base San Diego while combating the fire on USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). They had two fire-fighting teams battling the fire. The teams had to be rotated out every 15 minutes as the fire was burning too hot for them to stay on board any longer than that.
Aerial firefighting was also used to fight the fire, using helicopter water buckets with two helicopters from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron THREE. The helicopters carried out more than 1,500 water bucket drops. Tug boats sprayed water on the ship’s side to cool down its hull as fires raged below deck.
“Our fire teams are investigating every space to verify the absence of fire. Until every space is checked and there are no active fires we will not be able to commence any official investigations. We did not know the origin of the fire. We do not know the extent of the damage. It is too early to make any predictions or promises of what the future of the ship will be. We cannot make any conclusions until the investigation is complete, said Philip E. Sobeck, Rear Admiral and commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 3 said in a statement on Thursday.
“The Navy continues to work together with regulators, county and state in protecting our environment and preparing to address the community’s concerns as we move forward to the next phase,” said Sobeck.
G.S. Thoroman, Commanding Officer of the Bonhomme Richard, issued a Letter of Appreciation thanking all the people who helped them save the crew and the ship.
“The overwhelming support we received from all waterfront commands, Federal Fire Department, Naval Base San Diego, tenant shore commands, and myriad of other entities have been nothing short of inspiring.”
Thoroman also praised the crew of the ship, “The Sailors of the USS Bonhomme Richard have demonstrated courage in the face of the fire. Their strength and resilience are eye-watering.”