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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

So far, 34 sailors and 23 civilians have been treated, mostly for minor injuries related to firefighting. Five are still in the hospital in stable condition.

Air quality issues are still a problem. Local residents report smelling smoke from as far away as Vista, which is more than 40 miles away. The skyline around the South Bay and Bonita area had a tinge of brown to it Monday morning.

Sobeck said he is urging people to take the precautions county air quality officials recommend. He said that plastics and the exterior of cabling were burning.

San Diego County and the National Weather Service recommended people stay indoors with their windows closed if they smell the fire. High temperatures in San Diego Monday are expected to reach 77 degrees, a relief from Sunday when inland areas saw temperatures approaching 100.

The fire began around 8:30 a.m. Sunday morning in the ship's lower cargo hold, Sobeck said.

Some observers, including former sailors and naval experts, have questioned on social media whether the Navy will scuttle the ship, but Sobeck said Monday he believes the Navy will ultimately repair the ship.

Amphibious assault ships are used to deploy Marines in amphibious landings. During operations, the ships conduct flight operations with helicopters and jet aircraft, such as the AV-8B Harrier and its replacement, the F-35 B Lightning.

While deployed, these ships carry more than 2,000 sailors and Marines.

Sobeck said Sunday that all sailors are trained from boot camp to fight fires on ships.


This is one of the biggest fires on a Navy ship outside of combat.

In 1967, a fire on the aircraft carrier Forrestal killed more than 130 sailors after a rocket accidentally fired on the flight deck and ignited several explosions. The episode has been used as a lesson on how to tackle safety procedures aboard Navy vessels, Dukat said.

The George Washington, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, caught fire in 2008 when oil was improperly stored on the craft. At least 37 sailors were injured in the fire that took 12 hours to put out and cost $70 million in repairs.

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GRAPHIC (for help with images, contact 312-222-4194): Ship fire