News and Commentary

San Diego Navy Ship Fire Injures Over A Dozen Sailors
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 12: A fire burns on the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard at Naval Base San Diego on July 12, 2020 in San Diego, California. There was an explosion on board the ship with multiple injuries reported.
Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

A large fire broke out on the USS Bonhomme Richard in San Diego, California, early Sunday morning, injuring 17 of the 160 sailors aboard.

According to Naval Surface Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet, the 17 sailors have been transported to a local hospital with minor injuries, and four civilians have also been injured. Several hours after the fire started, all sailors were reportedly accounted for and off the vessel.

A Navy official, speaking to The Washington Post “on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue” said that other Navy officials do not suspect foul play but have also not determined the cause of the fire.

Federal Fire San Diego Division Chief Rob Bondurant said around 4 p.m. local time that “there are two firefighting teams fighting the fire aboard the ship,” and officials were still looking for the seat of the fire, according to a Twitter statement from the Naval Surfaces Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet.

The San Diego Fire Department said on Twitter that they were first requested at about 9 a.m. local time, and the situation escalated to a two-alarm fire several minutes later, and then a three-alarm fire shortly before 10 a.m.

CNN reports that San Diego Fire Chief Colin Stowel told anchor Erica Hill that the fire could potentially continue to burn for days. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that a minimum of “a dozen fire engines and trucks” had responded to the scene.

“The fire department said 150 firefighters were assigned to the blaze and a fire investigator was dispatched,” reports the news agency.

A helicopter video of the scene posted to Twitter by the San Diego Fire Department shows a plume of smoke, seemingly emanating from the center of the ship, blowing toward the land. It’s unclear when the video was taken.

A separate video, also posted by SDFD, shows firefighters responding to the scene, and the caption of the video says that “an explosion” occurred. While the video does not appear to show the explosion, Stowel also told CNN there was an explosion.

Admiral Michael Gilday, chief of naval operations, called the fire a “terrible tragedy” in a statement. He also praised the “quick and immediate response of local, base, and shipboard firefighters.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with our BHR Sailors, their families, and our emergency responders who continue to fight the fire,” said Gilday.

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