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Two USS Bonhomme Richard Firefighters Test Positive for COVID-19

Sailors combat a fire aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard, July 13 (USN)
Sailors combat a fire aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard, July 13 (USN)

By The Maritime Executive 07-19-2020 10:37:34

The U.S. Navy has confirmed that two sailors who were involved in supporting the USS Bonhomme Richard firefighting operation have tested positive for COVID-19. 

Both individuals were from the amphibious transport dock USS San Diego, and both developed symptoms before testing, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. The Navy has identified and quarantined 27 others who were in close contact with them. 

The fire aboard Bonhomme Richard broke out June 12 at Naval Base San Diego. The blaze began in a lower vehicle hold and spread vertically via elevator shafts and exhaust stacks, eventually reaching up through the superstructure and out forwards towards the bow. She was alongside the pier for repairs when the fire broke out, and the effort to fight it was complicated by the quantity of materials and equipment spread throughout her interior compartments. The blaze was extinguished Thursday, four days after it began. A dual-track Navy investigation into the circumstances of the casualty has begun. 

The damage is "extensive," chief of naval operations Adm. Mike Gilday said Friday, and the degradation of electrical, mechanical and structural elements of the ship will have to be fully evaluated to determine whether it makes sense to repair the vessel.

"I am 100 percent confident that our defense industry can put this ship back to sea, but having said that, the question is, should we make that investment in a 22-year-old ship - and I'm not going to make any predictions until we look at all the facts," Adm. Gilday said. 

At the time of the fire, Bonhomme Richard was two-thirds of the way through a multi-year refit to prepare her for deployment with the new F-35B fighter. 

On Friday, the day after the fire aboard USS Bonhomme Richard was extinguished, a near-miss was reported aboard sister ship USS Kearsarge at General Dynamics NASSCO-Norfolk. A spokesman for the yard told DenfeseNews that a spark from welding landed on plastic material aboard the ship, leading to smoke. The fire watch quickly put out the nascent blaze before it could cause damage. In response, the Navy issued a stop work order for all of its vessels at GD NASSCO-Norfolk in order to make sure that all fire safety protocols are followed.