Helicopters drop water on burning ship

San Diego Harbor

Helcopters drop on shipboard fire
Helcopters drop on shipboard fire, screenshot from Airailimages video.

Helicopters with water buckets were called in to assist in suppressing a stubborn fire July 12, 2020 on an amphibious assault ship, the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), which has been undergoing maintenance since 2018 in San Diego harbor. Multiple MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopters from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 3 dropped water in succession on the burning ship.

Fred Johnson of AIRAILIMAGES sent us a link some Department of Defense video shot during the fire.

Another of our readers sent us the photo below, showing firefighters on board the USS Bonhomme Richard.

Firefighters USS Bonhomme Richard
Firefighters on board the USS Bonhomme Richard.

This is not the first time an air tanker has helped firefighters battle a fire on a ship. From the Fire Aviation archives, October 31, 2014:

scooper dropping on ship fire
A water-scooping air tanker drops on a burning ship in the Adriatic Sea. Via @eb4ewl.

(UPDATED July 16, 2020)

One of our readers, Bean, told us about a video that explains what it is like to fight a fire on a ship like the USS Bonhomme Richard. It features Dr. Sal Mercogliano, a current firefighter and former sailor.

Here is the description of the video, from YouTube:

“On the morning of Sunday, July 12, 2020, at 8:50 AM PDT, USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) moored at Naval Base San Diego, Pier 2 reported a fire in the lower (Deep V) vehicle deck. The ship activated the emergency response system and a 3-alarm fire was triggered resulting in the dispatch of fire units from Federal, National City, and San Diego Fire Departments, along with crews from neighboring ships. Over the course of the day, the fire grew in intensity, the crews were forced to withdraw due to explosions, and the conflagration spread the length of the entire deck.

“Dr. Sal Mercogliano, a naval and maritime historian, former merchant mariner, and firefighter examines the visual evidence of the first day and discusses his assessment of the fire, how it spread throughout the ship, and response by the ship’s crew, shore and afloat fire apparatuses.

“This is an early examination of the event as fires still smolder on board the ship and a true study of the fire could be months away. All the opinions expressed are based on the evidence as they are known at the time of the recording. The videos used were pulled from YouTube.”

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Roger, Bean, and Fred. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

5 thoughts on “Helicopters drop water on burning ship”

  1. Saw other video of them dropping pretty low, which seemed to fan the flames (understandable). The higher drops looked more effective, for what it’s worth. Pretty short turnarounds!

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