A three-alarm fire broke out Sunday morning on board the USS Bonhomee Richard at Naval Base San Diego, military officials said. At least 17 sailors and four civilians were sent to the hospital for “non-life threatening injuries,” according to the Navy. All are in stable condition as of Sunday night.
The blaze broke out shortly before 9 a.m. local time and the cause of the fire is under investigation. Video posted on social media showed crews responding and smoke in the air. The San Diego Fire Department, who assisted in the emergency, said there was an explosion.
Explosion with at least one injury at the USS Bonhomme Richard. #shipfire pic.twitter.com/HooWIRcjU4
Video of the USS Bonhomme Richard shot from SDFD copter 3. #shipfire pic.twitter.com/tYluuN5pii
The USS Bonhomme Richard is an 840-foot amphibious assault vessel and the Navy said there were 160 sailors on board at the time of the incident. All personnel are accounted for, per the Navy. It was unclear where onboard the fire started. Officials initially said one person was treated for smoke inhalation.
“We are grateful for the quick and immediate response of local, base, and shipboard firefighters aboard USS Bonhomme Richard,” said Admiral Mike Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations. “Our thoughts and prayers are with our BHR Sailors, their families, and our emergency responders who continue to fight the fire.”
The Associated Press said the vessel was undergoing routine maintenance at the time of the fire. San Diego is the home port for Bonhomme Richard.
Nearby Navy ships USS Fitzgerald and USS Russell “shifted berths to a pier further away from the fire,” officials said Sunday afternoon. Officials said at a press conference Sunday night that a 1,800 foot perimeter has been established around the USS Bonhomee Richard.
San Diego’s fire chief said the blaze could burn for days. Lawrence B. Brennan, a professor of admiralty and international maritime law at Fordham University in New York, told the AP that the fire could be particularly destructive if it reached the engine room and other tight spaces.
“The heat of a fire of this nature can warp the steel, and that can be a major problem for any ship,” he said. “On an older ship, it’s even more of a problem.”
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