SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Naval helicopters flew several water-dropping sorties today in their aerial assault on the fire raging on the USS Bonhomme Richard at Naval Base San Diego, and authorities revealed that the blaze caused inflicted mostly minor injuries on 52 sailors and civilians but caused five people to be hospitalized.
The two helicopters were from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Three, according to the official Twitter account of Naval Surface Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet, which updated the number of injured early Monday, noting that the five people hospitalized are displaying stable vital signs.
Most of the injured were treated for heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation, according to Navy officials.
“Everyone is off the ship and everyone is accounted for,” Brian O’Rourke, a Navy spokesman, told City News Service. There were 160 sailors and officers aboard the ship when the fire broke out.
San Diego firefighters were called to 3455 Senn St. at 8:51 a.m. Sunday for a three-alarm fire aboard the vessel, according to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. About 150 firefighters were assigned to fight the blaze.
Media reports said there was an explosion on the ship, but there has been no official confirmation.
The Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Michael M. Gilday, said on Twitter, “Today, we suffered a terrible tragedy aboard USS Bonhomme Richard when a fire broke out aboard the ship while in port San Diego.
“The remainder of the crew is accounted for,” the admiral continued. “We are grateful for the quick and immediate response of local, base, and shipboard firefighters aboard BHR. Our thoughts and prayers are with our BHR sailors, their families, and our emergency responders who continue to fight the fire.”
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer tweeted, “We are here for the sailors and civilians affected by the ship fire at Naval Base San Diego. SDFD and other first responders continue to lend support. All of the crew is off the USS Bonhomme Richard and accounted for. Thank you to our brave sailors and rescue crews.”
The city of National City asked residents to go inside their homes to avoid smoke from the ship fire.
The city tweeted, “The smoke is being evaluated. Safety precautions should be taken to limit any potential health impacts. We are encouraging all residents to go inside and limit outside activities.”
Firefighters from San Diego and National City joined federal firefighters in responding to the scene, where plumes of smoke could be seen on the naval base.
About 1 p.m. Sunday, the USS Fitzgerald shifted berths to a pier farther away from the fire, according to Mike Raney, deputy public affairs officer with the Naval Surface Force. The USS Russell moved about 30 minutes later, he said.
As the fire continued to burn Monday morning and the smell of the blaze spread across San Diego County, health officials warned of unhealthy air quality.
San Diego health officials advised those living in areas of heavy smoke to assume that the air quality levels are unhealthy. The San Diego County Air Pollution Control District Office also noted that if residents can smell acrid smoke they should limit physical activity and stay indoors if possible.
The San Diego office of the National Weather Service reported that the area of smoke concentrations will shift throughout the day as the onshore winds kick in and that the smoke should lift as the temperatures rise.
The cause of the fire was not immediately determined.
The Bonhomme Richard is an amphibious assault ship homeported in San Diego. It is the third warship in the U.S. Navy’s history to bear the name, which means ”Good Man Richard” in French and honors Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac.
The first Bonhomme Richard was a warship in the Continental Navy. She was originally a merchant ship built in France for the French East India Company in 1765. She was placed at the disposal of John Paul Jones on in February 1779 by King Louis XVI of France as a result of a loan to the United States by French shipping magnate Jacques-Donatien Le Ray.