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Navy Puts Out Fire on Ship That Would Cost $4B to Replace

Blaze neared temperatures that could soften steel
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 16, 2020 6:40 PM CDT
Fire on Ship in San Diego Harbor Is Out, Navy Says
A helicopter from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 3 combats a fire Tuesday aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard in San Diego.   (Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Garrett LaBarge/U.S. Navy via AP)

The fire on a ship in San Diego Harbor has been extinguished, ending one of the worst infernos to rip through a US warship outside of combat in years, the Navy announced Thursday. "All known fires have been extinguished aboard USS Bonhomme Richard," Rear Adm. Philip E. Sobeck said in a statement. Teams were checking every space to be sure, the AP reports. Until that process was complete, an official investigation into the cause of the blaze that started Sunday would not begin, he said. "We did not know the origin of the fire. We do not know the extent of the damage. It is too early to make any predictions or promises of what the future of the ship will be," said Sobeck, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 3. More than 60 sailors and civilians were treated for minor injuries, heat exhaustion, and smoke inhalation since Sunday.

The fire started in its lower armored vehicle storage area and quickly spread throughout the amphibious assault ship that is akin to a mini-aircraft carrier. Helicopters dumped more than 1,500 buckets of water on the ship, which had been docked for maintenance. The Navy said a spark from an unknown source first ignited heavy-duty cardboard boxes, rags and other maintenance supplies being stored in the lower vehicle storage area. The fire traveled upward to the well deck and took off from there, officials said. The fire at one point reached up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, threatening to soften steel. It could cost an estimated $4 billion to replace the ship if it can't be salvaged. The Bonhomme Richard was nearing the end of a two-year-long upgrade estimated to cost $250 million. It was being done so the ship could start being used to deploy the Marine Corps’ F-35Bs in the Pacific.

(More Navy stories.)

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