SAN DIEGO -- On the morning of July 12, a fire ignited on amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) while moored pier side at Naval Base San Diego.
As the alarm sounded, local and federal firefighters quickly suited up to respond. Navy Reserve Sailors, several who serve as civilians at the Federal Fire Department San Diego, answered the call.
Firefighting crews from multiple San Diego-based ships and bases and federal firefighters worked around the clock combating the fire. Navy helicopters dumped more than 1,500 buckets of water on the ship, while tugboats shot water onto the ship to cool the hull. At the height of the blaze, temperatures on board reached 1,000 degrees.
“I knew we had to do whatever it took to support our Navy brothers and sisters, as well as our civilian counterparts,” said Master Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Antonio Guadron.
Guadron is the senior enlisted leader for the Navy Reserve Firefighting Program and a captain and crew leader for Federal Fire Department San Diego.
“Although I was familiar with the Bonhomme Richard’s layout, I knew there would be major challenges with battling such a massive fire,” he said.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday praised the combined active, Reserve and civilian teams and dedication of those who fought the fire.
“There were Sailors from across the San Diego waterfront who responded to this fire —hundreds of them; many without receiving direction to do so,” he said. “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.”
Senior Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Walter Hernandez, one of the Reserve members included in the effort said his team drew upon their training, and gained from their Navy and civilian roles, to seamlessly integrate with shipboard crew to battle the flames.
After four days of firefighting, all fires on board were extinguished and the process of assessing damage and planning for the ship’s future have begun.
Capt. Gregory Scott Thoroman, commanding officer of Bonhomme Richard, expressed his appreciation for all of the help and support during the crisis.
“I am beyond grateful for the countless professionals who contributed to our efforts to save our ship,” he said. “Lives were saved.”