The Navy News Service released the below statement from Admiral Michael M. Gilday, the Chief of Naval Operations:
“We suffered a terrible tragedy aboard USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) when a fire broke out aboard the ship while in port San Diego. At this point, 17 Sailors and four civilians are being treated for non-life-threatening injuries at a local hospital.
“The remainder of the crew is accounted for. We are grateful for the quick and immediate response of local, base, and shipboard firefighters aboard USS Bonhomme Richard. Our thoughts and prayers are with our BHR Sailors, their families, and our emergency responders who continue to fight the fire. Godspeed.”
The fire aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) at the San Diego naval base interests me as I was a young sailor on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CVA-63) when she was stationed in San Diego prior to and after our WESTPAC combat cruise during the Vietnam War in 1970 and 1971.
I recall that a fire aboard a Navy ship can be devastating due to fuel and armaments igniting and causing secondary fires. Like the rest of the Kitty Hawk crew and air wing, I attended two firefighting schools. At the school we were shown a flight deck film of the deadly fire aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal in 1967, in which 134 sailors were killed and 161 sailors were injured.
After attending the firefighting schools, I was assigned to a Damage Control Team that was called up when a fire and other emergencies occurred aboard the ship.
In the top photo one can see tugboats using their powerful water cannons to fight the fire on the Bonhomme Richard. After serving on the Kitty Hawk for two years, I was stationed on a Navy tugboat, the USS Saugus (YTB-780) at the U.S. Navy’s floating nuclear submarine base at Holy Loch, Scotland in 1974 and 1975. We used our water cannons to break up oil slicks and fight fires.
Most fires on ships occur at sea and one cannot call the local fire department, so it is up to the sailors aboard ship to combat the fire. In the USS Bonhomme Richard’s case, the ship was moored in San Diego, so the ship’s crew was assisted by the base fire fighters and the San Diego Fire Department.
Note: The above U.S. Navy released photos were taken by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jason Kofonow. You can click on the above and below photos to enlarge.