SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — The U.S.S. Bonhomme Richard, a Navy amphibious carrier, caught fire Sunday morning at Naval Station San Diego and continues to burn three days later.
According to the Navy, the ship fire started in a cargo hold said to be full of shipyard maintenance materials.
On Wednesday, helicopters continued to make water drops using buckets that can hold 1,000 gallons of water scooped up from San Diego Bay where Naval Station San Diego is located and where the Navy’s Pacific Fleet is based.
One big area of concern had been the fuel tanks located under an area that is still smoldering. They contain about a million gallons of fuel.
“There is no threat to the fuel tanks, which are well below any active fires or heat sources,” Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck told reporters.
All of the crewmembers assigned to the ship have been accounted for, although as many as 61 people have been hurt, including 38 sailors who have been treated heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation, Sobeck said.
The U.S. Coast Guard set up a protective boom around the ship to guard against oil or fuel spills into the San Diego Bay. And they are standing by should any fuel escape the burning ship. But Sobeck said the risk of any fuel spilling from the ship or catching fire is “very low.”
The ship is as big as nearly three football fields and can carry several helicopter squadrons and thousands of Marines and sailors.
According to the Navy, the ship’s forward mast collapsed Monday and the superstructure of the ship has suffered widespread damage.
“Whether the ‘amphib’ can be salvaged and repaired remains to be seen,” Sobeck said. “We haven’t been inside the ship well enough to get a fuller picture. It looks cleaner from the outside, but inside we’re still fighting a major fire.”