WATCH: Navy Sea Hawk helicopters drop water on USS Bonhomme Richard blaze

AvatarBy 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.

Two MH-60S Seahawk helicopters from the Merlins of HSC 3 provide aerial firefighting support alongside sailors and civilian fire crews on the ground to fight the fire aboard amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Patrick W. Menah Jr.

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.

Tug boats, a helicopter from HSC 3 and Federal San Diego Firefighters combat the fire aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Russell Lindsey
A one-nautical mile TFR from the surface to 3,000 feet has been established to ensure the safety of firefighting aircraft.. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Russell Lindsey
Using externally slung Bambi buckets, the Sea Hawks drew seawater from nearby and dumped in onto the ship’s deck, cooling it so firefighting teams could board and continue to douse the flames from within. U.S. Navy photo by Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class Kyle Dagget
By Wednesday, the helicopters had performed at least 1,500 water drops on the still-burning ship. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Garrett LaBarge/Released

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