Friday, August 7, 2020

Firefighters Enter 3rd Day of Battle Against Fire Aboard USS Bonhomme Richard

UPDATED July 15, 2020 9:15am – As of 6 am Pacific time July 15, firefighting teams continue operations on board USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), 63 personnel, 40 Sailors and 23 civilians, have been treated for minor injuries including heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation. Currently, there are no personnel hospitalized. Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron THREE has conducted more than 1,500 helicopter water bucket drops, which is cooling the super structure and flight deck enabling fire crews to get onboard internally to fight the fire.

SAN DIEGO (July 13, 2020) An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter from the “Merlins” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 3, provides aerial firefighting support alongside Sailors and civilian fire crews on the ground to fight the fire aboard amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mar’Queon A. D. Tramble)

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As firefighters enter their third day of continuous firefighting operations, Sailors and Fed Fire are making progress at containing the Bonhomme Richard shipboard fire July 14. Expeditionary Strike Group Three Commander, Rear Adm. Phillip Sobeck held a press conference in which he said “Our focus remains on putting out the fire and keeping people safe.  We have investigated the four main engineering spaces and found no major damage. There is no threat to the fuel tanks, which is well-below any active fires or heat sources. The ship is stable and the structure is safe.” Sobeck went on to say, “We are still combatting two fires, one forward and one aft. Our challenge remains to put the fire out completely and then go space by space to get ship areas cooled.”

Sobeck also provided an update on injuries sustained by those fighting the fire, “At this time there are 61 personnel, 38 U.S. Navy Sailors and 23 civilians, have been treated for minor injuries including heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation. Currently, there are no personnel hospitalized.”

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#OneTeamOneFight

In the past 48 hours, Federal Fire Department San Diego and U.S. Navy Sailors have conducted numerous firefighting operations, making significant progress with the help of aerial firefighting operations conducted by U.S. Navy helicopters. Crews from HSC-3 will continue efforts throughout the night.

Posted by Surface Warriors on Monday, July 13, 2020

Naval Air Station North Island based helicopter squadron HSC-3 has dropped over 1,200 buckets of water on the fire over the last couple days and Sobeck shared that he is extremely impressed by the work of the Sailors, Fed Fire and squadron whose team efforts have gone a long way to fight the fire.

Environmental concerns for both the water in San Diego Bay as well as air quality concerns have led to many questions by local residents. “As we continue to fight the fire, we remain cognizant of environmental concerns regarding the water and air quality, said Sobeck, “We recommend residents follow county advisories for safety out of an abundance of caution.” The Coast Guard also had a representative at the press conference who said their primary objective is to preserve life, protect the marine environment and protect the port. “We have assessed the situation and positioned equipment in case there is a discharge of the fuel.” They are taking every precaution for the worst case scenario as the ship has over one million gallons of fuel on board.

The Air Pollution Control District County of San Diego is warning residents to limit activity if they smell smoke. From the APCD Website:

“Due to the ship fire burning in San Diego harbor, localized areas of smoke have occurred in areas of San Diego County.  As a result fine particulates, or PM2.5 concentrations, may reach unhealthful levels in some smoke impacted areas. In areas of heavy smoke, assume that air quality levels are unhealthy for sensitive groups to unhealthy for all individuals. In areas with minor smoke impacts, assume that air quality levels range from moderate to unhealthy for sensitive groups. In areas where you smell smoke it is advised that you limit physical activity.  If possible, stay indoors to limit your exposure to fine particulate matter.”

Air Quality chart pulled from EPA.gov website July 14.

On the third day of firefighting efforts, the smoke coming from the ship seems to be more under control.

As the fire continues to be contained the smoke billowing from the ship has also been reduced, indicating good news for air quality.

Sobeck concluded the press conference by saying “Going forward, the Navy will do a thorough investigation of the incident to include assessing the cause of the fire and damage to the ship, but right now our focus remains on putting out the fire and keeping people safe. I’d like to also thank our partners from state and county as well as the Coast Guard for monitoring the potential impacts to the environment.”

See below for the full video of today’s press conference:

Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 3, holds a press conference regarding USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) fire.

Posted by Surface Warriors on Tuesday, July 14, 2020

 

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Jeannie Groeneveld
Jeannie is a recently retired Naval Officer whose first duty station brought her to Coronado in 1998.  A Navy Helicopter Pilot for 10 years and a Public Affairs Officer for 11 years, the Navy afforded her many incredible opportunities to serve her country in unique ways while seeing the world.Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: manager@coronadotimes.com
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