On Sunday, a fire and explosion onboard United States Navy warship USS Bonhomme Richard, docked in a naval base in San Diego, caused injuries to 21 people–17 sailors and four civilians.
According to a statement on Twitter by the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Michael Gilday, the sailors and civilians “are being treated for non-life-threatening injuries at a local hospital.”
Rear Admiral Philip Sobeck told reporters in a live-streamed news conference that the fire broke out at around 8:30 a.m. in the lower vehicle storage area, “a huge, open area where you store a lot of marine equipment and everything else” due to a “sort of a backdraft” or an over-pressurization of the compartment that caused it to heat up.
The US Naval Surface Forces said in a statement on Twitter that 160 sailors were on board the ship when the fire broke out, adding that the ship has a total crew of approximately 1000 sailors. The ship had been undergoing maintenance in the San Diego naval base.
Gilday added in his statement that the entire crew has been accounted for.
The Navy crew onboard and Federal Fire San Diego are trying to combat the fire. Retired US Navy commander Eric A. Dukat told The New York Times that all crew members are trained to be firefighters.
Federal Fire San Diego Division Chief Rob Bondurant said in a Twitter statement, “Currently there are two firefighting teams fighting the fire aboard the ship. Federal Fire is rotating their crews aboard the ship with @USNavy firefighting crews from the waterfront to fight the fire in order to find the seat of the fire and extinguish it.
“Also, @NavyRegSW [Navy Region Southwest] tugs are also continuously combatting the fire from the bay.”
Two other warships docked near the Bonhomme Richard were moved to other piers as a precautionary measure, said the US Naval Surface Forces on Twitter.
Meanwhile, the future of the ship remains uncertain as the fire has not yet been put out. San Diego Fire Chief Colin Stowell told CNN on Sunday afternoon that the ship could burn for days, “down to the waterline.”
However, Sobeck said in the news conference that the ship may still be saved.
“We’re absolutely going to make sure it sails again. She was in a stage of repair anyway. So we’re just gonna get right back at it once we get this thing contained and put out.”
The USS Bonhomme Richard is one of eight Wasp-class amphibious assault ships capable of rapid combat power build-up when faced with opposition. The warship was commissioned to be built in 1998 and is one of three naval ships that bear the same name. It has been part of several missions since then, including Operation Iraqi Freedom.
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