On July 16th, all fires on board the USS Bonhomme Richard, Wasp-class amphibious assault ship, have been extinguished, but the warship appears almost entirely destroyed.
“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,” Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck, the commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 3, said in a prepared statement.
The USS Bonhomme Richard is part of the expeditionary strike group.
The extinguishing of the fire took 4 days, and it involved more than 400 sailors from 12 San Diego-based ships and more than 1,500 water bucket drops from helicopters.
As of July 16th, 40 sailors and 23 civilians have been treated for minor injuries, including heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation, while fighting the fire, according to the Navy.
There was concern about the roughly 1 million gallons of fuel that is aboard the ship, but the fire and heat sources stayed above the tanks.
The ship has also been leaning on its side because of the amount of water that has been used within the ship and from above it to put out the flames and keep it cool for firefighters to work.
“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,” Sobeck said in the prepared statement.
The cause and origin of the fire are unknown, and the investigation is ready to start now that it has been extinguished.
“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,” Sobeck said. “We cannot make any conclusions until the investigation is complete.”
Since the fire began on the morning of July 12th, it spread throughout the ship from the cargo hold, where Navy officials believe it started. The fire destroyed the ship’s forward mast and damaged its superstructure.
At around 9 AM local time, an explosion occurred on board the warship, while in home port at Naval Base San Diego undergoing maintenance.
The resulting fire was fueled by paper, cloth, rags or other materials, not fuel oil or other hazardous materials, and it still took 4 days to extinguish.
Since the ship was in maintenance, on-board fire-suppression systems had been disabled, delaying the onset of firefighting efforts, according to Admiral Sobeck.
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