Details remain limited, but the Wasp class amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) is burning pier-side at Naval Base San Diego. Aerial footage shows thick smoke billowing from the ship’s hangar deck as firefighting crews have moved in to try to halt the blaze. Reports state that an unknown number of sailors have been hurt as a result of the fire.
Fire crews from across San Diego have been called in to fight the fire, which some sources state emanates from below the waterline. Loud booms have been heard coming from the ship, but it isn’t clear what exactly is causing them.
The last major pier-side incident for a U.S. Navy ship in San Diego occurred when disaster struck at the nearby NASSCO shipyards in 2018 when one of the dry docks holding the still under construction USS Miguel Keith flooded, causing significant damage to the vessel.
As for other major U.S. Navy fires, this could end up being the worst one since the arson fire that struck the Los Angeles class nuclear fast-attack submarine USS Miami in 2012. Unlike that vessel, Bonhomme Richard is conventionally powered, but is one of just nine big-deck amphibious assault ships within the Navy’s inventory. It is a strategic and very costly asset that provides major air and amphibious power projection when operating abroad.
A fire on China’s new and quite similar Type 075 amphibious assault ship occurred last April, which drew negative attention from the international press. Evidence of the fire was quickly covered up by crews that literally painted over the smoke damage just hours after it occurred.
Here is a local news live feed of the fire aboard Bonhomme Richard:
We will continue to live-update this post as more information comes available.
11 sailors were taken to the hospital with minor injuries out of about 200 that were onboard the ship when the fire struck according to the San Diego Union Tribune. The paper also reports that all of the sailors have been accounted for, which is a bit of good news. Around 150 firefighters are on the scene fighting the ongoing fire.
Chris Cavas noted that the USS Fitzgerald is berthed right next to Bonhomme Richard. Not good. The ship just got repaired after the fatal collision in 2017. The Navy may be trying to pull some of the ships off the pier in the vicinity to Bonhomme Richard. The live stream just now had a destroyer moving by, although it isn’t clear exactly which vessel it was.
Apparently, the Fitzgerald was towed away. The damage to the destroyer isn’t clear, but smoke damage is very possible.
Also, the Navy has updated the hospitalization numbers from 11 to 18:
As of 2 pm PDT, the fire continues. Two experts in the space shared identical observations with me. First, the amount of water being poured into the ship is concerning and they noticed that the bow appears to be sitting low in the water. The other issue is that with the crew evacuated, the fire will basically burn itself out, which could take a very long time, at which point the ship may not be repairable. There is also some chatter about the automated firefighting systems being disabled due to some work being done on the vessel, but this is not confirmed at this time.
Some recent screengrabs from the firefighting effort, note the destroyer that was pulled away seen in the upper-right of the frame across from the DDG-1000s:
So, destroyers Fitzgerald and Russel were moved away from Bonhomme Richard. Also, an update on the human toll, four civilians and 17 sailors now reported having been taken to the hospital.
The Navy says there are two firefighting teams fighting the fire aboard the ship and rotating in and out. They are trying to find where the fire in emanating from in order to extinguish it. So, they don’t know what caused the fire or where it is burning exactly on the ship, which has been on fire for many hours and the smoke has picked-up once again recently.
The above screenshots were taken from San Diego’s Channel 10 News at 5:32pm PDT. The fire could very well go into the night at this point.
There has been a shelter in place order for the area around Bonhomme Richard issued by Naval Base San Diego:
Per the 6:30 pm PDT Navy presser in San Diego:
- At 8:30AM the fire was reported in the lower vehicle storage area on the Bonhomme Richard, but the exact location and source are unknown.
- The crew began to fight the fire immediately. Local fire departments were quickly called and reported to the ship to begin fighting the fire. The ship’s crew was then evacuated and accounted for. Sailors are back fighting the fire now.
- All 17 wounded sailors are in stable condition.
- No ordnance is onboard.
- All on the scene are now trying to save the ship.
- Not clear what caused the reported explosion related to the fire on the ship.
- 1,800-yard safety perimeter around the ship at this time.
- Fireboats are trying to cool the hull.
- The type of fire is an “ashy” fire indicative of burning debris, not fuel or any other toxic substances.
- The Admiral says the ship will sail again.
- 1,000,000 gallons of fuel are on the ship, but that fuel is located below the heat source.
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com