USS Bonhomme Richard's Bridge Engulfed In Flames As Fire Rages Into The Night (Updated)

The blaze appears to have migrated to the ship's superstructure that is packed full of sensors, communications gear, weapons, and much more. 

Dennis Bondarenko/Facebook Screencap

The USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) continued to burn after the sun had set in San Diego. It now appears that the fire has migrated to the ship's island superstructure with its bridge seen engulfed in flames, which is a very bad thing. Additional large booms were also heard as the blaze continued to rage aboard some 14 hours after it started.

Make sure to read our previous rolling coverage to get up to speed on what is increasingly looking to be a monumental disaster for the U.S. Navy. 

As it sits now, 17 sailors and four civilians were taken to the hospital as a result of the fire, it is known that at least all the sailors were in stable condition as of around 6:30 pm local time in San Diego. During an evening press conference, Rear Admiral Philip E. Sobeck addressed reporters and stated that there are still 1,000,000 gallons of fuel onboard the vessel, but that is was located below where they thought the blaze emanating from. In addition, fireboats have been pouring water on the ship's hull in order to keep it cool in an attempt to maintain its integrity as the fire wore on. Two teams of firefighters were said to be fighting the fire on the ship, although now that its upper-most decks are engulfed, that may have changed. 

It still isn't clear exactly what started the fire, with the Admiral only stating that it was thought to have begun in the lower vehicle storage area. He also noted that the "ashy" smoke wasn't highly toxic or a danger to downtown San Diego as it didn't have the characteristics of burning toxic materials, like fuel. 

The future of the vessel, which is in the middle of its service life, is likely more in question now after seeing that the fire is burning missionized spaces in its island, which also points to the fire now being far more widespread than originally indicated. This is despite the Admiral stating that the ship would be repaired and would sail again, which seemed like a dubious claim at this time. 

The island is also packed with the ship's most critical electronics, including its radars, electronic warfare arrays, and many of its communications systems. Just forward of the island is a large structure that houses half of the ship's Rolling Airframe Missile and Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile launchers. One of the ship's Phalanx close-in weapon systems is also mounted atop the island itself.

Here is a photo of LHD-6 during better days:

USN

The sailors and other firefighters that are faced with taking on this horrific blaze are clearly fighting one formidable foe. It takes amazing courage to step onto a burning ship pier-side. 

You can learn more about what it is like fighting a fire in tight spaces aboard a vessel in this past feature of ours. 

We will continue to update this post as more information comes available. 

UPDATE:

The forward island has melted in with its mast now leaning forward at an extreme angle. What are supposedly Sea Hawk helicopters are now using Bambi Buckets to douse the flames from above. Amazing footage:

The ship is listing now according to one source. 

UPDATE:

The island appears to have been partially burned through now and black acrid smoke seems to be rising amidships. 

Update: 9:50 AM EST—

"As of 6:49 a.m. firefighting teams continue operations continue on board USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) in addition to aerial firefighting operations that commenced via helicopter water bucket at 1:30 a.m. PST with two helicopters from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron THREE, the U.S Navy has said in its most recent statement regarding the stricken amphibious assault ship. "There are 5 Sailors admitted to local hospitals for observation. All are in stable condition."

Video from less than an hour ago shows firefighting operations, including helicopter water drops, continuing. 

Defense News' David Larter has Tweeted out a picture of the internal deck layout of the ship to help put into context how the fire expanded from its apparent point of origin.

Update: 12:30 PM EST—

The Navy issued another brief update about the Bonhomme Richard situation at 9:30 AM, which is as follows:

"Firefighting teams continue operations on board USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). Fifty-seven personnel, both U.S. Navy Sailors and civilians, have been treated for minor injuries including heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation. Of those, five remain hospitalized for observation and are currently in stable condition."

The U.S. National Weather Service office in San Diego, California, has also warned that "you may notice a fairly acrid smoke smell if you live near San Diego" due to the fire even if you live relatively far away in a post on Facebook. "The good news is that as temperatures rise, smoke should be able to better mix out vertically, reducing the near-surface concentrations somewhat."

UPDATE:

We have a new post up with all the latest on the Bonhomme Richard fire that you can go to by clicking here. 

Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com