WATCH: Navy Sea Hawk helicopters drop water on USS Bonhomme Richard blaze
By Dan Parsons | July 15, 2020
Estimated reading time 4 minutes, 21 seconds.
For the past four days, as the USS Bonhomme Richard has continued to burn pierside in San Diego, California, U.S. Navy helicopters have doused this ship’s deck with buckets of water as hundreds of firefighters battle the blaze from below.
Two Sikorsky MH-60S Sea Hawks from Navy Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 3 have conducted more than 1,500 water drops using externally slung Bambi Buckets. The drops are aimed at cooling the Bonhomme Richard’s superstructure and flight deck, allowing fire crews to board the amphibious assault ship where they can fight the fire from within the ship.
Though the fire continued to burn into Wednesday, Navy officials reported progress and said on Tuesday that the ship was stable, not in danger of sinking, and the structure was safe for firefighting crews to enter.
As of 9 a.m. July 15, firefighting operations continued onboard the ship, but the blaze had moved away from fuel storage areas that threatened to explode if ignited. Fire teams from Federal Fire San Diego and more than 400 Navy sailors from 11 ships not including the stricken LHD 6 are battling the fire. Personnel from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Ventura County and Naval Air Facility El Centro, Camp Pendleton and the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Fire Department are assisting in quenching the fire.
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Sailors aboard the Bonhomme Richard, a Wasp-class big-deck amphibious assault ship, first reported the fire around 2:30 a.m. local time July 12, while moored at Naval Base San Diego. Bonhomme Richard was in San Diego for regularly scheduled maintenance.
Later on July 12, the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and USS Russell (DDG 59) shifted berths to a pier further away from the fire. A one-nautical mile temporary flight restriction zone from the surface to 3,000 feet (915 meters) has been established to ensure the safety of firefighting aircraft.
As of July 15, 63 personnel — 40 sailors and 23 civilians — have been treated for minor injuries including heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation. None of those personnel remain hospitalized.