2 More Injured as Fight to Put Out Bonhomme Richard Fire Reaches Day 4

Sailors and Federal San Diego Firefighters prepare to fight a fire on board USS Bonhomme Richard.
Sailors and Federal San Diego Firefighters prepare to fight a fire on board USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) July 13, 2020. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communications Specialist Seaman Lily Gebauer)

Two more sailors had been injured as of Wednesday morning as the Navy's fight to save a warship that caught fire over the weekend reached its fourth day.

Forty sailors and 23 civilians have been hurt battling the blaze on the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard at Naval Base San Diego. A fire broke out in the ship's "Deep V" lower cargo hold on Sunday. Teams have been fighting to extinguish it since, with the fire at one point reaching 1,000 degrees.

None of the 63 people have suffered serious injuries. Most have been heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation, according to Naval Surface Force Pacific.

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At one point, five people had been hospitalized; they have since been released.

Wednesday was the first day Navy leaders haven't held a press conference on the situation, but Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck, Expeditionary Strike Group 3's commander, on Tuesday cited progress in getting the fire contained to two spots on the ship: one forward and one aft.

However, Sobeck added that he was no longer certain the ship is salvageable, after telling reporters on Sunday that "we're absolutely going to make sure it sails again."

As firefighters take on the blaze from inside the ship, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Three has dropped more than 1,500 loads of water from the air.

Retired Damage Controlman Chief Petty Officer Robert Cummins, who taught crews how to combat and extinguish fires aboard Navy vessels, said that shipboard firefighting is a lot different than fighting one on land. He offered insight into what those battling the Bonhomme Richard fire are up against.

"[The] primary goal is to, of course, extinguish the source of the fire, but [firefighters] also set both primary and secondary fire boundaries," Cummins said. "A shipboard compartment has six sides. The fire will heat up the top boundary first and ignite any flammable materials, then will spread sideways with the same result."

The fire will continue burning, he added, until it is either extinguished by firefighters or all the flammable materials in its path are consumed.

The ship was undergoing maintenance when the fire started Sunday. About 160 people were onboard, and Sobeck said the Bonhomme Richard's fire suppression system was not on at the time.

The ship is still holding about 1 million gallons of fuel, but Sobeck said Tuesday that the fire was not at risk of reaching it. The fuel and fire were about two decks apart, putting at least 20 feet between the heat source and the fuel, Cummins said.

The Navy will investigate the cause of the fire and the ship's damage.

As crews continue battling the blaze, the Navy is warning about possible scammers looking to benefit from the situation. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service warned people to reconsider contributing to donation sites claiming to raise money in the wake of the Bonhomme Richard fire.

"At this time, the Navy is assisting Bonhomme Richard Sailors affected by the fire with all essential items," Navy Region Southwest said in a social media post. "If you are considering making a donation, please be aware of scams and unofficial sites."

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

Related: Too Soon to Tell if Bonhomme Richard Can Be Saved After Fire, Navy Says

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