Fire isolated aboard Navy ship, could be extinguished in 24 hours

Fire isolated aboard Navy ship, could be extinguished in 24 hours
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The fire aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard in San Diego has been contained to two parts of the Navy vessel, with the possibility that it could be put out in the next 24 hours, a top service official said Tuesday.

Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck said hundreds of sailors have been combating the blaze from both inside and outside the amphibious assault ship, with helicopters dropping more than 1,200 buckets of water and tugboats helping from the waterline.

The efforts have cooled the ship enough to allow crews to get onboard and internally fight the fire.

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“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 said.

“We have made significant progress.”

A fire first broke out on the USS Bonhomme Richard on Sunday morning in a lower cargo area, where cardboard and drywall supplies were kept. The ship was undergoing maintenance at the shipyard when the blaze began.

The fire suppression system aboard the vessel was inoperable at the time due to the maintenance work, Sobeck said Monday.

As a result of the fire, 61 personnel, including 38 sailors and 23 civilians, have been treated for minor injuries including heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation. No personnel were hospitalized as of Tuesday.

The Navy does not yet know how the fire started, and an investigation is underway.

Asked if the flames could be put out within 24 hours Sobeck said, “It’s absolutely possible. . . . we’re very hopeful.”

He also said that there is now additional space - more than two decks worth - between the fire and the million gallons of fuel on board due to the work of overnight crews.