Source: San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, Naval Surface Force U.S. Pacific Fleet and United States Navy (Information):
Pictures: San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, Naval Surface Force U.S. Pacific Fleet and Fox 5 San Diego (Courtesy):
San Diego, California: Fire battle continued aboard the U.S.S. Bonhomme Richard at Naval Base San Diego on Monday, July 13th, 2020
Firefighters spent a second day battling a fire, working to contain the blaze that injured several sailors and civilians, and caused extensive damage to the warship yesterday morning.
Monday afternoon the Navy issued the following statement indicating that all its personnel had been released from the hospital, saying, “59 personnel, 36 U.S. Navy Sailors and 23 civilians, have been treated for minor injuries including heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation. Currently, there are no personnel hospitalized.”
Monday night officials from Naval Surface Force U.S. Pacific Fleet shared an update saying that significant progress had been made with the help of aerial firefighting operations which would continue through the night.
According to Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck, Naval forces are doing everything they can to save the ship, which has sustained considerable superstructure damage since the conflagration erupted on the vessel’s lower decks.
Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck said to reporters that the cause of the fire aboard the ship is still unknown, but that crew reports indicate it started in lower decks, and because the vessel was undergoing maintenance work when the fire broke out, its built-in flame-suppression system was inoperative.
Adding to the dangers posed by the inferno, Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck said the flames were burning several decks away from a section in the ship where a million gallons of oil is housed.
Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck expressed confidence that firefighters could keep the blaze away from that storage area.
According to the Navy and the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, the fire began shortly before 9:00 a.m. PT on Sunday, July 12th, 2020.
Firefighters from multiple agencies responded to the scene, and after 90 minutes battling the fire, authorities decided to remove all firefighters from the vessel for safety reasons and battle the blaze by remote means, including water-dropping helicopters.
About two hours after the fire began, a blast shook the vessel.
According to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, “None of the firefighters were on board the ship when the explosion happened, but the blast threw several firefighters off their feet.”
According to Navy officials, a total of 57 crew members battling the blaze have suffered various injuries, mostly heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation and five have been hospitalized in stable condition.
According to Navy spokesman Brian O’Rourke, there were 160 sailors and officers aboard the ship when the fire broke out.
About 4 hours after the fire began, the Navy moved the U.S.S Fitzgerald and U.S.S. Russell to berths farther away from the fire.
Monday morning, two helicopters from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Three were helping other military crews and civilian firefighters battle the blaze, according to the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Officials in National City, California are asking residents to remain in their homes as much as possible to avoid health hazards from the smoke billowing off the burning ship.
Likewise, the San Diego County Air Pollution Control District Office noted that if residents can smell acrid smoke, they should limit physical activity and stay indoors if possible.
“Right now, we’re not seeing anything rise to a level of health concerns for the public. However, where smoke is present, San Diegans should limit physical activity and stay indoors, if possible, to limit exposure to particulate matter. The situation could change, as the fire is expected to be burning for a few days,” said San Diego County Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten.
The National Weather Service is reporting that the area of smoke concentrations would shift throughout the day as the onshore winds kick in and that the smoke should lift as the temperatures rise.
A Family Care Line has been set up for families looking for information regarding their sailor. The number is 844-523-2025.
Naval officials urged people to be aware that there are a number of scams asking for financial donations in support of the U.S.S. Bonhomme Richard sailors; they said to not take donations to the base because they are not taking donations at this time, and do not take donations to the base.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer pledged that city officials are “here for the sailors and civilians affected by the ship fire at Naval Base San Diego.”
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer noted that, “All of the crew is off the USS Bonhomme Richard and accounted for. Thank you to our brave sailors and rescue crews.”
The Bonhomme Richard is the third warship in U.S. naval history to bear the name, which means “Good Man Richard” in French and honors Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac.
The vessel has been homeported at Naval Base San Diego since the spring of 2018, when it returned from a six-year port switch to Sasebo, Japan, while becoming the command ship for Navy Expeditionary Strike Group Seven.