After four days…
Below is a statement from RADM Philip E. Sobeck Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group THREE – ESG-3:
After four days of firefighting, all known fires have been extinguished aboard USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6).
Our fire teams are investigating every space to verify the absence of fire. Until every space is checked and there are no active fires we will not be able to commence any official investigations.
We do not know the origin of the fire. We do not know the extent of the damage. It is too early to make any predictions or promises of what the future of the ship will be.
We cannot make any conclusions until the investigation is complete.
What we do know is, that brave Sailors from commands all across San Diego worked tirelessly alongside Federal Firefighters to get this fire extinguished and I want to thank them for their efforts. This was a Navy team effort. We had support from the air and sea. Three helicopter squadrons conducted more than 1,500 water bucket drops, fighting the fire and cooling the superstructure and flight deck enabling fire crews to get on board to fight the fire. Tugs also provided firefighting support from the waterline, cooling the ship’s hull.
We had 63 personnel, 40 U.S. Navy Sailors, and 23 civilians, treated for minor injuries including heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation. We have no personnel hospitalized.
The Navy continues to work together with regulators, county, and state in protecting our environment and preparing to address the community’s concerns as we move forward to the next phase.
I’d like to thank our partners from state and county, the U.S. Coast Guard, and all agencies for continued support.
Now comes the assessment. The worst damage to a U.S. carrier-style vessel since the 1967/1969 fires on Forrestal and Enterprise. Perhaps the worst since the Franklin in 1945. Like what occurred with USS Belknap in 1975, there will be another round of questions as to the use of aluminum in naval shipbuilding. We shall see what comes next.
As a former Ingalls employee that worked on LHDs back in the day (of note, I worked on Boxer, not BHR) and know first-hand the danger of hotwork on these vessels while in the yard, I can’t help but feel connected to “Bonnie Dick.” Whether or not the Navy decides to rebuild– which I would bet that they would, citing past total losses that were reconstructed for the sake of saying it will be done– that remains to be seen.