WASHINGTON --- Firefighters combating the blaze aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard faced zero visibility and the threat of explosions as the fire spread through nearly all of the ship’s decks, Adm. Mike Gilday, the chief of naval operations, described in an email to senior naval leaders.
The fire, which began July 12 and burned for four days, caused extensive damage to the amphibious assault ship now based at Naval Base San Diego where it was nearing the end of a maintenance period.
Gilday visited the ship Friday and described his observations and discussions with firefighters in an email Wednesday addressed to admirals and master chiefs and obtained by Stars and Stripes.
The ship has sustained fire and water damage on 11 of its 14 decks, Gilday wrote. He was able to walk throughout sections of the ship five decks below the flight deck and examine the superstructure, where the bridge is located. The superstructure “is nearly gutted,” he wrote, as are sections of some of the decks below. He also wrote the Naval Sea Systems Command’s assessment of the damage is still ongoing.
“Sections of the flight deck are warped/bulging,” Gilday wrote. “The fire started in the lower vehicle storage area — six decks below the flight deck and near the middle of the ship — spreading aft, forward and up.”
Gilday also repeated his public statements from Friday that wind and explosions allowed the fire to spread and become intense. Wind fueled the fire “as the vehicle storage area leads to the well deck, which opens to the air at the stern gate,” he wrote. (end of excerpt)
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