After over four days of frantic firefighting aboard the stricken amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard berthed in San Diego Bay, the U.S. Navy says all the fires aboard have been put out. This great news comes after the ship listed in the opposite direction overnight, forcing the evacuation of the vessel and the pier it is tied up to for a period of time while the situation was assessed.
Below is a statement from Rear Admiral Philip E. Sobeck Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group THREE – ESG-3:
After four days of firefighting, all known fires have been extinguished aboard USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6).
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.
What we do know is, that brave Sailors from commands all across San Diego worked tirelessly alongside Federal Firefighters to get this fire extinguished and I want to thank them for their efforts. This was a Navy team effort. We had support from the air and sea. Three helicopter squadrons conducted more than 1,500 water bucket drops, fighting the fire and cooling the super structure and flight deck enabling fire crews to get onboard to fight the fire. Tugs also provided firefighting support from the waterline, cooling the ship’s hull.
We had 63 personnel, 40 U.S. Navy Sailors and 23 civilians, treated for minor injuries including heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation. We have no personnel hospitalized.
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.
I’d like to thank our partners from state and county, the U.S. Coast Guard, and all agencies for continued support.
There will be a press conference held shortly. We will update this post with all the important information after it concludes.
From today’s press conference:
- The painstaking process of going compartment by compartment to begin to assess the damage and to make sure the fires are indeed put out is underway. There still may be high heat in some areas. In other cases, the hatches may be sealed shut due to a vacuum, in which case teams must cut through to gain access. This can provide oxygen that could restart the fire or result in a backdraft situation. It’s dangerous and slow work with crews rotating every 15 minutes or so.
- Temps reached 1,200 degrees in some areas.
- The superstructure is largely made of aluminum that clearly didn’t take the heat well.
- Rear Admiral Sobeck stated that the ship has proven to be survivable.
- He also says that it can be rebuilt, but will it be is the question.
- The list is caused by the “free water effect” of water shifting around the ship’s spaces and hull. It has remained stable throughout the ordeal regardless of the list the Sobeck said, but dewatering will further stabilize it and reduce the list now.
- 85 crewmen were living aboard when the fire broke out.
- The fire began and then caused an explosion.
- The ship was roughly two-thirds of the way through its deep maintenance cycle with systems being moved back aboard when the fire hit.
- The loss will impact the Navy’s force mix and combat capacity, but the Rear Admiral says there are enough ships to fill the gap.
- Hundreds of sailors from 20 ships based in San Diego pitched in to fight the fire.
The Admiral started the presser with a couple of good stories about the sailors who valiantly fought the fire over the last four days. It is worth a watch, even for just the first few minutes or so:
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com