KEY POINTS

  • Fire broke out aboard USS Bonhomme Richard in San Diego, California
  • At least 21 people were sent to a local hospital due to injuries
  • Officials suspect the fire to have originated from the lower cargo hold of the ship

A fire tore through a United States Navy ship in San Diego on Sunday morning, resulting in nearly two dozen sailors and civilians being hospitalized for their injuries.

There were about 160 sailors aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard on Sunday, July 12, at about 8:30 am local time (11:30 am EDT) when an explosion and a fire broke out on the ship while it was at the port. The incident quickly escalated to a three-alarm fire, and federal firefighters reportedly requested for assistance from the San Diego Fire Department (SDFD) at about 9 am.

In a photo of the fire shared by the Naval Surface Forces on Twitter, several fireboats can be seen pumping water onto the ship, from where thick, dark smoke is emanating.

Several firefighting crews also went aboard the ship to find and extinguish the source of the fire.

Twenty one people were reportedly sent to the hospital -- including 17 sailors and four civilians -- with "non-life threatening injuries," several of which were from smoke inhalation. The rest of the crew is accounted for, as well as all SDFD responders.

"Today, we suffered a terrible tragedy aboard USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) when a fire broke out aboard the ship while in port San Diego," U.S. Navy Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Mike Gilday, said in a statement. "We are grateful for the quick and immediate response of local, base, and shipboard firefighters aboard BHR. Our thoughts and prayers are with our BHR Sailors, their families, and our emergency responders who continue to fight the fire."

So far, the exact cause of the fire was unclear, but the commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 3, Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck, told reporters it may have originated from the “Deep V” or the lower cargo hold of the ship, the part that held a lot of equipment. He confirmed the explosion earlier aboard the ship, but its source was also unclear.

Although Sobeck noted the fire was not fueled by fuel or any hazardous materials, residents in some nearby areas were advised to stay indoors to protect themselves against any potential health hazards from smoke inhalation.

A similar shelter-in-place order was also enforced at the base for all non-first responders later in the day, but this was intended to keep the area clear for first responders.

Two nearby U.S. Navy ships were also moved away from the fire.

So far, the source of the fire was pending investigation. As of 2:00 am EDT,  operations to control the fire at USS Bonhomme Richard were still ongoing, with aerial firefighting operations already commenced. 

Fireboat Image: A fireboat, designed to fight shoreline and shipboard fires, shooting water. Photo: Pixabay