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Inferno on San Diego Navy ship rages into second day

Andrew Dyer, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in News & Features

SAN DIEGO -- Navy officials said Monday morning that the fire ravaging the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard for a second day has reached temperatures as high as 1,000 degrees and it is still burning in various portions of the ship.

Smoke and fumes continued to affect the skyline and air throughout San Diego.

Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck, the commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 3, said Monday morning that the fire is in the superstructure of the ship and its upper decks and that the ship's forward mast has collapsed.

"There's obviously burn damage all the way through the skin of the ship and we are assessing that as we kind of go through each compartment," he said. "Right now the priority is to get the fire out so that we can take a complete assessment."

He said the flames are two decks away from the area in the ship where a million gallons of oil is stored. He said that is "a concern," but he's confident the fire can be kept away from it.

About 400 sailors and fire crews from across the San Diego waterfront are fighting the blaze and helicopters are doing water drops. So far Helicopter C Combat Squadron 3 has dumped 415 buckets on board.

 

Water from the firefighting is causing the ship to list to one side, he said, but Navy personnel are working to pump the water off.

The cause of the fire still is unknown. Sobeck said it may have been begun in a cargo area known as the deep V storage area. There are large storage boxes, called triwall boxes, that are the size of pallets that burned.

Sobeck said that although the ship was under maintenance, none of it was in the storage area.

And because the ship was under maintenance, its Halon system, which emits a gas that starves a fire of oxygen, was not active, he said.

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