Two Decks Are Thought To Separate Fire On USS Bonhomme Richard From 1M Gallons Of Fuel (Updated)

The Navy says it is throwing everything it has at fighting the blaze on the stricken amphibious assault ship as it enters into its 28th hour. 

CBS 8 San Diego

Rear Admiral Philip Sobeck addressed reporters at 11:00 AM local time in San Diego to provide new information on the ongoing fire aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) that has now burned continuously for 27 hours. The press conference follows a terrible night for the ship, which saw the fire expand to its bridge and greater island superstructure, partially melting its upper forward portion. The ship now lists at the pier as firefighting efforts continue at a frantic pace from both the air and the ground. 

Before we continue, make sure to catch up with the situation via our previous rolling coverage linked here. 

With that said, here are the main takeaways from the press conference:

  • It is thought that two decks separate the fire from the ship's fuel reserves. The Admiral says the Navy is doing everything they can to make sure it doesn't migrate there. 
  • No welding was reported in the area of the fire when it broke out. 
  • At least significant parts of the automated halon firefighting systems were offline at the time of the fire. Enhanced pier-side fire watch readiness posture was supposedly in place.
  • 415 Bambi Buckets of water have been dropped on the ship by three MH-60S Seahawks from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Three (HSC-3) based out of nearby Naval Air Station North Island.
  • 160 people were on the ship when the fire began.
  • 400 sailors are now involved with fighting the fire aboard the ship. 
  • The area where the fire started, which was the lower vehicle storage area, was filled with cardboard, rags, drywall, and other combustible material.
  • The fire is producing temperatures as high as 1,000 degrees.
  • Extreme heat in and under the island and in the bow.
  • There is a list that they are trying to correct via dewatering as part of a larger balancing act of keeping the ship stable while also fighting the fire
  • Five remain hospitalized and in stable condition out of 57 that have been treated at the hospital. 
  • There is burn damage throughout the skin of the ship.
  • Due to the ship undergoing maintenance, there is debris scattered throughout the passageways of the ship making it challenging to safely fight the fire. 
  • There are no plans to let the ship burn down to the waterline.
  • The Admiral is not aware of the fire being in the ship's critical engineering spaces.
  • Crews are keeping a close eye on the environmental air quality and so far it has been within EPA limits.

Here are some recent screencaps of the ship. Notice the list to starboard:

CBS 8 San Diego
CBS 8 San Diego

That is what we have at this time. We will continue our live rolling coverage on the fire aboard the Bonhomme Richard by updating this post as more information comes available. 

UPDATE:

The smoke had died down a bit, but multiple reports state that dark smoke has been belching from the ship within the last hour:

The Coast Guard is prepared for an oil spill: 

UPDATE:

According to Naval Surface Forces:

As of 3:30 p.m. Pacific time July 13, firefighting teams continue operations on board LHA-6. 59 personnel, 36 US Navy sailors and 23 civilians, have been treated for minor injuries including heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation. Currently, there are no personnel hospitalized.

The Navy has also released some new images of the firefighting effort around the stricken ship:

USN
USN

UPDATE:

Not much in terms of new official info to report, but we have some new images to share. 10 News had their helicopter on the west side of the ship again this evening and we finally got some good light to take a better look at the damage. You can see where the forward superstructure partially melted in and some of the other damage to the ship. The good news is that there is less smoke now, although some parts are still smoking quite noticeably, especially at the stern and some areas amidships. 

10 News ABC San Diego Screencap
10 News ABC San Diego Screencap
10 News ABC San Diego Screencap
10 News ABC San Diego Screencap

Here are a few other photos from social media that are worth a look:

UPDATE:

Photos are circulating that depict the extent of damage the ship has taken. The photo below, taken from one of the MH-60S helicopters that were fighting the fire, shows just how destroyed the forward island is. The blaze has opened up a hole into the hangar deck below and other smaller fissures are also seen. Another photo shows the hangar deck as being totally destroyed. One can only imagine the nonvisible damage to the ship's structure at this point. 

Here is the image of the hangar bay:

And another:

Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com