U.S. Navy Sailors and civilian firefighters continued their operations today against the fire that broke out on board the Navy’s Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) on July 12.
According to the Navy, sixty-three personnel (40 Sailors and 23 civilians) have been treated for minor injuries including heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation. The Navy statement added that there are currently no personnel hospitalized.
The Navy’s Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron THREE (HSC-3) has conducted more than 1,500 helicopter water bucket drops with its MH-60S Seahawk (aka Knighthawk) helicopters. This is cooling the superstructure and flight deck, enabling fire crews to get aboard internally to fight the fire. Tugs are also providing firefighting support from the waterline.
The vessel sustained considerable damage to its superstructure and upper decks, and the forward mast was collapsed. The ship is also listing to the starboard side and the sailors and firefighters are removing water to avoid further listing.
Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 3, has provided the updates of the firefighting operations during July 14 press conference in San Diego.
He said that the Navy investigated the four main engineering spaces and found no major damage adding that the ship is stable and the structure is safe. He also said that there is no threat to the fuel tanks, “which is well-below any active fires or heat sources”.
“Going forward, the Navy will do a thorough investigation of the incident to include assessing the cause of the fire and damage to the ship, but right now our focus remains on putting out the fire and keeping people safe”, said Rear Adm. Sobeck.
Firefighting Operations Photos:
Fire Abroad USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6)
The fire was reported aboard USS Bonhomme Richard, which was moored pier side at Naval Base San Diego, at approximately 8:30 am local time on July 12. The fire was initially reported in the lower vehicle storage area of the ship.
Approximately 160 Sailors were aboard the 840-foot vessel at the time of the incident (the vessel has a crew size of approximately 1000). The Navy later released a statement confirming the incident adding that all crew members were accounted for.
There was also an explosion on the ship just before 11 a.m. July 12 but no one was hurt by the blast.
When the fire broke out, the vessel was docked at Pier 2 at the naval base and was sharing the pier with two DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and USS Russell (DDG 59). At approximately 1:00 p.m. on July 12, the destroyers shifted berths to a pier further away from the fire.
Bonhomme Richard is in San Diego for a regularly scheduled maintenance availability. The vessel was moved to the pier after the phased maintenance availability works conducted at the nearby facility of General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Co. (NASSCO).
NASSCO was awarded a $218 million contract for the availability by the Navy’s Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) in 2018. As per the 2018 announcement, the availability which included a combination of maintenance, modernization, and repair, was “expected to be completed by May 2020”. The availability reportedly included upgrades and modernization to operate the new F-35B Joint Strike Fighter.
Before arriving in San Diego in 2018, the vessel spent six years in Japan as part of the U.S. Forward Deployed Naval Force. During this deployment, she served as the flagship of the Amphibious Force 7th Fleet’s expeditionary strike group.
USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6)
USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) is a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship of the U.S. Navy homeported at Naval Base San Diego. It is the third Navy ship of that name.
The contract to build her was awarded to Ingalls Shipbuilding on 11 December 1992, and her keel was laid down on 18 April 1995. She was launched on 14 March 1997, delivered to the Navy on 12 May 1998, and commissioned on 15 August 1998.
The primary mission of USS Bonhomme Richard is to embark, deploy and land elements of a Marine landing force in amphibious assault operations by helicopter, landing craft and amphibious vehicle.