US Navy says it is 'too early to tell' if the badly burnt warship that has been on fire for days can be saved

July 14th 2020, 9:54:59 pm

The US Navy continues to battle fires aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard that have been burning since Sunday morning.

A helicopter from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 3 combats a fire aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) at Naval Base San Diego, July 14
  • "We still have an active fire that we are combatting from both within and outside the ship," Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group Three, told reporters at a Navy press briefing Tuesday.
  • Despite earlier assurances that the ship would sail again, the admiral said that while he remains hopeful, it is "too early to tell" if the ship can be saved.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories .

A Navy admiral said Tuesday that it is "too early to tell" whether or not the US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard can be saved as the ship, which caught fire Sunday morning, continues to burn.

Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group Three, said Tuesday that no major damage has been found in the four engineering spaces, that there is currently no threat to the fuel tanks, and that the ship is stable and the structure safe.

But, he said, "we still have an active fire that we are combatting from both within and outside the ship."

Sobeck revealed that helicopters equipped for firefighting operations have dumped more than 1,000 buckets of water on the fire on the USS Bonhomme Richard, cooling the superstructure and flight deck so that firefighters can battle the blaze internally while tugs spray water alongside the hull.


There is currently at least one active fire in a previously inaccessible forward area of the ship. There is another fire in the aft area. Sobeck said he is hopeful that all of the remaining fires will be out within the next 24 hours.

The Navy has released a number of images of the ongoing firefight, some of which capture clearly the charred exterior of the ship.

A fire was first reported aboard the big-deck amphib, which has been in maintenance for the past couple of years and was in port at Naval Base San Diego, at around 8:30 am Sunday. Sobeck said that a sudden explosion forced the crew to evacuate before they could secure the area where the fire broke out and activate the fire suppression system.

The fire, which is suspected to have started in a lower vehicle storage area, spread rapidly through the ship. Sobeck told reporters Tuesday that once the fire spread up to the well deck, it was "off to the races."

Over the past few days, hundreds of sailors and local firefighters have been battling the fires aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard. The Navy reports that 61 people 38 sailors and 23 civilians have been injured, suffering from things like smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion.

Sobeck told reporters Sunday evening that "we're absolutely going to make sure it sails again," adding that "we're just going to get right back at it once we get this thing contained and put out."

In an update Monday, he said that he remains hopeful, even as expert observers suggested the ship was too far gone and possibly not worth saving .

On Tuesday, he said that he is still as hopeful as ever but said that it is "too early to tell" the extent of the damage and whether or not the ship can be salvaged.

The fire, which in some places was burning at temperatures as hot as 1,000 degrees, scorched the ship through and through. Unverified photos that have surfaced on social media appear to show severe external damage to the superstructure and internal devastation .

"When you look at the outside of the ship, you don't get the full picture," he said. "We haven't been inside of the ship well enough to get a full picture." Sobeck said that an investigation would be carried out once the fire was finally out.

See Also:

Ryan Pickrell


Our newsletter gives you access to a curated selection of the most important stories daily.
Oops! An error Occured

Eyewitness? Submit your stories now via social or: