As of 9:00 a.m. July 15, the Navy reported that aerial firefighting efforts conducted by MH-60G helicopters equipped with Bambi Buckets has reached a staggering 1,500 drops since firefighting operations began when an explosion triggered a fire that continues to burn below decks onboard USS Bonhomme Richard. The fire has so far injured 63 personnel, 40 Sailors, and 23 civilians, that have been treated for minor injuries including heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation.
Operations from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 3 continue in efforts to aid the cooling of the super-structure and flight deck of the ship, which has enabled fire crews to get on board to fight the fire internally. Pictures released by the Navy that were taken on board the helicopters fighting the fire from above show substantial damage to the upper deck of the ship. Several large holes in the deck now expose the deck below, which now offers crews the ability for aircraft to penetrate below decks with water drops.
“There is no threat to the fuel tanks, which is well-below any active fires or heat sources. The ship is stable and the structure is safe. We still have an active fire, which we are combatting from both within and outside the ship from multiple access points. HSC 3 helicopters have conducted more than 1,000 helicopter water bucket drops, which is cooling the superstructure and flight deck enabling fire crews to get onboard internally to fight the fire. Tugs are also provide firefighting support from the waterline. I’m proud of the toughness of the Sailors and Federal Firefighters for making this significant progress possible. At this time there are 61 personnel, 38 U.S. Navy Sailors and 23 civilians, have been treated for minor injuries including heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation. Currently, there are no personnel hospitalized. Going forward, the Navy will do a thorough investigation of the incident to include assessing the cause of the fire and damage to the ship, but right now our focus remains on putting out the fire and keeping people safe. I’d like to also thank our partners from state and county as well as the Coast Guard for monitoring the potential impacts to the environment.” Said Rear Admiral Philip Sobeck, Expeditionary Strike Group THREE commander in a press conference yesterday detailing the Navy response to the incident.