- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 16, 2020

Sailors on Thursday extinguished all known fires on a Navy ship in San Diego, ending an around-the-clock four day battle to bring the flames under control.

The fire broke out Sunday morning about the USS Bonhomme Richard, an amphibious assault ship, with flames quickly spreading throughout the ship.

Teams are now expecting each room and space aboard the Bonhomme Richard to verify that all fires have been extinguished, said Rear Adm. Philip E. Sobeck, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group Three.

“Until every space is checked and there are no active fires, we will not be able to commence any official investigations,” he said. “The flames are out but the heat is still there.”

During a press conference on Thursday, Rear Adm. Sobeck said it was too early to make any predictions or promises about the future of the ship. The Bonhomme Richard, he said, is resting “very comfortable” along the dock.

“It (the ship) is in stable condition all the way through,” he said. “The ship ‘can’ be repaired. Whether or not it ‘will’ be repaired will be determined’ at a later date.

The fire is believed to have started in a lower level storage area, officials said.

The temperature got as high as 1,200 degrees as the flames raced throughout the ship during the four day battle. The main deck and higher areas seem to have sustained most of the fire damage, Rear Adm. Sobeck said.

Navy officials said 40 sailors and 23 civilians were treated for minor injuries, such as heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation. None of the victims were hospitalized.

Rear Adm. Sobeck said the campaign to save the Bonhomme Richard was a team effort. He said three Navy helicopter squadrons dropped more than 1,500 buckets of water to cool the burning superstructure and allow fire crews to get aboard and take on the flames. Harbor tugs also blasted water against the ship’s hull to keep it cool.

“Each sailor is a firefighter. We certainly have proven that,” he said.

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