Fire Breaks Out on U.S.S. Bonhomme Richard in San Diego


At least 57 people were injured when a fire and an explosion broke out Sunday on a U.S. Navy warship that was docked in San Diego, causing heavy damage and burning into the next day, officials said.

The ship, the U.S.S. Bonhomme Richard, had been docked at the U.S. naval base in San Diego when a fire was reported at 8:30 a.m. in a lower cargo hold that is used for vehicle storage, the Navy said.

It was not immediately clear what had caused the fire or the explosion. The fire was still burning on Monday morning, and local news footage showed black smoke rising from the ship. Two helicopters had joined the firefighting efforts, the Naval Surface Forces said on Twitter.

About 160 sailors were aboard the ship at the time, according to the Navy, which said that 34 sailors and 23 civilians were injured. The injuries were not life-threatening, and included heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation. All crew members had been accounted for, the Navy said, and five sailors remained hospitalized in stable condition.

“Imagine a fire inside of a ship, just imagine the inside of your oven,” he said.

In 1967, a fire on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Forrestal killed more than 130 sailors after a rocket accidentally fired on the flight deck and ignited several explosions. The episode has been used as a lesson on how to tackle safety procedures aboard Navy vessels, Professor Dukat said.

John Liddle, a lieutenant commander who retired from the Navy last year after 20 years of service, said in an interview Sunday that fighting a fire while a ship is in port can be harder because not all crew members are available and safety standards are different when the vessel is not at sea.

“The things you would normally do to keep a fire contained, you can’t do them,” he said.

Mr. Liddle was second-in-command of the U.S.S. Hue City when a fire was sparked onboard hundreds of miles off the coast of Bermuda in April 2014.

The fire on his ship was sparked by rags that sailors had stored in “basically a chimney,” he said. The Navy relieved him of his duties after an investigation into the fire.

“Even in a really horrible, awful, wartime fire, you’re still going to be able to keep the ship afloat,” Mr. Liddle said. “Where the problem really comes, where a ship is lost for good, is normally actually because of the water.”

“You’re putting so much water into it in one place or another that all of a sudden it’s not buoyant in the same way that it was designed to be,” he said.

The Bonhomme Richard is outfitted to carry landing craft to transport equipment and troops as well as landing boats. It is 847 feet long and has a crew of 102 officers and just over 1,000 sailors.

Aimee Ortiz, Brian Pietsch and Allyson Waller contributed reporting.



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