An amphibious assault ship caught fire on Sunday at Naval Base San Diego, resulting in an on-board explosion that injured 21 people and filled the skies with dark smoke, according to officials.
The entire crew of the USS Bonhomme Richard has been accounted for and all are off the 840-foot vessel, according to a statement from Naval Surface Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet. Seventeen sailors and four civilians were taken to local hospitals and all were in stable condition, Rear Admiral Philip Sobeck said during a Sunday night press conference.
The blaze was reported around 8:30 a.m. in the lower vehicle storage, Sobeck said. While the Navy is still working to determine the cause of the explosion, Sobeck said it was likely due to “backdraft of overpressurization as the compartment started heating up.”
Approximately 160 sailors were aboard the 23-year-old ship at the time, officials said in a statement — far fewer than if the ship was on active duty.
As of 6:30 p.m., Sobeck said most of the smoke still billowing from the ship came from “normal things you’d find in a compartment,” such as clothes and books. The fuel tanks were far from the fire and not affected.
“We are grateful for the quick and immediate response of local, base, and shipboard firefighters aboard USS Bonhomme Richard,” Admiral Mike Gilday, chief of Naval Operations, said in a statement.
Two other destroyers, the USS Fitzgerald and the USS Russell, were moved to a pier further away from the fire during the day.
San Diego is the Bonhomme Richard’s home port and it was undergoing routine maintenance at the time of the fire. The ship has the capacity to deploy and land helicopters, smaller boats and amphibious vehicles.
Contributing: The Associated Press