US Navy’s high officer reveals grim new particulars of the injury to Bonhomme Richard

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WASHINGTON — A collection of explosions and a 1,200-degree inferno broken 11 of the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard’s 14 decks, in accordance with a abstract of the injury by the U.S. Navy’s high officer, which was obtained by Defense News.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday, in a letter to the service’s admirals and grasp chiefs, mentioned the fireplace precipitated “extensive damage” to the ship.

“There is fire and water damage, to varying degrees, on 11 of 14 decks,” Gilday wrote. “With the flight deck as a reference, I walked sections of the ship 5 levels below and had the opportunity to examine the superstructure.

“The island is nearly gutted, as are sections of some of the decks below; some perhaps, nearly encompassing the 844 ft length and 106 ft beam of the ship ([Naval Sea System Command’s] detailed assessment is ongoing). Sections of the flight deck are warped/bulging.”

The letter doesn’t tackle one of many key questions within the wake of the fireplace: What will turn out to be of the ship? The Navy has a protracted historical past of reviving its broken ships because it did with the destroyers Fitzgerald and McCain, and Congress is often keen to drift the cash. But it’s unclear if the Navy will need to make investments what’s going to probably be a whole bunch of tens of millions of {dollars} right into a 22-year-old ship. After a 2012 hearth onboard the assault submarine Miami, the Navy decided the roughly $700 million price ticket was too steep to justify.

The hearth on the Bonhomme Richard broke out the morning of July 12 whereas it was pierside in San Diego, California, present process upkeep. The blaze was aided by wind and explosions, Gilday wrote.

“While response from the crew and federal firefighters was rapid, preliminary reports indicate there were two main factors that contributed to the intensity, scope, and speed of the fire,” Gilday wrote. “First was wind that fueled the fire as the vehicle storage area leads to the well deck, which opens to the air at the stern gate. The second were the explosions, one in particular, reportedly heard about 13 miles away.

“The explosions, some were intense, and the uncertainty of their location and timing, led to a situation, that might have been under control late Sunday night, but expanded into a mass conflagration, spreading quickly up elevator shafts, engine exhaust stacks, and through berthing and other compartments where combustible material was present.”

Chief Machinist's Mate Sallyvidia Isiaho returns from combating a fire aboard his ship, the Bonhomme Richard. (MC3 Hector Carrera/U.S. Navy)
Chief Machinist’s Mate Sallyvidia Isiaho returns from combating a hearth aboard his ship, the Bonhomme Richard. (MC3 Hector Carrera/U.S. Navy)

In the letter, Gilday praised the work of Bonhomme Richard’s crew, in addition to the a whole bunch of sailors who rushed to the scene, many with out orders to take action. Several dozen sailors and civilian firefighters had been hospitalized, most with smoke inhalation and warmth accidents.

“There were Sailors from across the San Diego waterfront who responded to this fire — hundreds of them; many without receiving direction to do so,” Gilday wrote. “Every single fire team was led by BONHOMME RICHARD Sailors — no question, this was THEIR ship and they would walk point on every firefighting mission. Most had to be ordered … and re-ordered … to go home at some point and get some rest.

“I also met with the air crews of HSC-3; the aerial bucket brigade who dropped nearly 700K gallons of water on the blaze, day and night, from their helos. Their efforts were critical in helping get the fire under control; and they used their IR [infrared] capability to locate hot spots and vector fire teams to the source. Awe inspiring teamwork.”

Helicopters approach the U.S. Navy warship Bonhomme Richard as crews fight the fire on July 13, 2020, in San Diego, Calif. (Gregory Bull/AP)
Helicopters method the U.S. Navy warship Bonhomme Richard as crews struggle the fireplace on July 13, 2020, in San Diego, Calif. (Gregory Bull/AP)

Gilday closed the letter by pledging to be taught from the fireplace and to attract on the positives from the state of affairs.

“We will thoroughly look into and learn from the fire on BONHOMME RICHARD,” he wrote. “We will be committed to doing that together. I have no doubt about that.

“As we look hard into recent events — and revisit and assess what we’ve learned from previous incidents, I am relying on you to reinforce those aspects of our culture demonstrated on BONHOMME RICHARD and across the Navy right now. Focus on the positive attributes — that will overcome the negatives we want to avoid.”

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