57 Injured in Fire Aboard Amphib USS Bonhomme Richard

fire bonhomme richard
Image courtesy SDFD

Published Jul 12, 2020 7:36 PM by The Maritime Executive

[Updated] On Sunday morning, a fire broke out aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard at Naval Base San Diego. 

The base called for the San Diego Fire Department's assistance at about 0850 hours. The SDFD classified it as a three-alarm fire and dispatched multiple fire engines to the scene, and as of 1600 hours Sunday, two SDFD teams were still on scene. A combined force of Federal Fire and U.S. Navy firefighting crews were working to extinguish the source of the blaze, Federal Fire San Diego Division Chief Rob Bondurant told the San Diego Union Tribune.

According to the U.S. Navy, there were 160 sailors on board at the time that the fire broke out. 34 sailors and 23 civilians sustained non-life-threatening injuries in the blaze, including individuals who suffered from heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation, according to the Navy. A spokesperson told the New York Times that the ship's own firefighting team - part of a duty crew assigned to the ship during a maintenance period - was the first to respond to the fire. 

At least one explosion occurred after initial evacuations were complete. The Bonhomme Richard is not believed to be carrying ordnance, as she is currently going through a maintenance availability. 

The cause and location of the fire have not been disclosed. Aerial video imagery obtained by SSFD showed a fire boat applying cooling water at position on the hull directly underneath the helicopter carrier's island. The video shows smoke pouring from multiple openings along the starboard side.

The destroyers USS Fitzgerald and USS Russell, which were moored near the Bonhomme Richard, were relocated later on Sunday to berths further away from the blaze. 

USS Bonhomme Richard is a Wasp-class "big deck" amphib, one of eight in the U.S. Navy. She is the third ship to bear the name during a period of commissioned service. Since her commissioning in 1998, USS Bonhomme Richard has served with distinction in multiple overseas engagements, including Operation Southern Watch, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. She was forward-deployed to Sasebo from 2012 to 2018.