17 sailors and four civilians are being treated for non-life threatening injuries at a San Diego hospital as a result of a fire aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard, Navy Surface Forces for the Pacific Fleet tweeted on Sunday. The entire crew is off the ship and have been accounted for, the Navy said.
A Navy spokesperson told Task & Purpose it was still unclear what may have caused the fire. All inport ships have been directed to help out with firefighting efforts, the Navy tweeted.
Multiple news sources reported that a firefighter was also injured in the event. The Navy said in a tweet that local, base and shipboard fire fighting teams responded to the fire.
160 sailors were aboard The Bonhomme Richard at the time of the fire, the Navy said. The ship was undergoing maintenance at the time, and sailors called for help to fight a fire at 8:30 a.m. local time, the Navy said.
All sailors were off the ship and accounted for by 12:15 p.m. local time, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. Originally, the Navy tweeted that 11 sailors had sustained minor injuries from the fire. But by 1:30 p.m. local time, the number had gone up to 18. An hour after that, the number changed again to 17 sailors and four civilians.
Other tweets on Sunday showed helicopter footage of massive plumes of smoke pouring out of the ship from multiple places.
USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) Fire – Naval Base San Diego – 1 firefighter has been injured. A new explosion just now occurred. Everyone is being moved off the pier. Live stream from helicopter: https://t.co/hFaIk4jLhH
— SD County Fire Scanner (@SDCountyFires) July 12, 2020
A large explosion can be heard on news footage of the fire from CBS 8 San Diego. Federal firefighters first called for help from the San Diego Fire Department at 9 a.m. local time, the department tweeted.
Nearby ships pulled away from the Bonhomme Richard to avoid the fire, the Navy said. At approximately 1:00 p.m. local time, the destroyer USS Fitzgerald shifted berths to a pier further away from the fire. Another destroyer, USS Russell moved approximately 30 minutes later.
The USS Fitzgerald had only recently returned to San Diego after leaving a Huntington Ingalls shipyard in Mississippi, where the ship had spent nearly three years under repair after a collision off the coast of Japan which seven sailors and injured several others.
It appears the #destroyer just opposite the pier from the burning #BONHOMME RICHARD LHD6 is the just-repaired USS #FITZGERALD DDG62, who just arrived at San Diego 2 July after 2+ years being repaired from her 2017 collision. Smoke damage looks intense pic.twitter.com/Sjz0e5FtTi
— Chris Cavas (@CavasShips) July 12, 2020
Bonhomme Richard is the third vessel to carry the name and it is the sixth of the Navy's Wasp-class amphibious assault ships, according to the Navy. Its mission is to embark, deploy and land elements of the Marine landing force in amphibious assault operations by aircraft, amphibious vehicles or any combination of these methods, as well as provide humanitarian assistance.
The ship's last deployment was in 2018, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
The original Bonhomme Richard was a frigate under the command of John Paul Jones, one of the founders of the U.S. Navy. In 1779, during the Revolutionary War, Jones engaged a British ship, the HMS Serapis, off the coast of England. According to the Navy:
Richard was blasted in the initial broadside the two ships exchanged, losing much of her firepower and many of her gunners. Captain Richard Pearson, commanding Serapis, called out to Jones, asking if he surrendered. Jones' reply: “I have not yet begun to fight!”
Eventually, the Richard sunk, and Jones was forced to transfer to the Serapis, the Navy wrote. Jones is buried in the crypt of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
This is a developing story and will be updated with more information as it becomes available