SAN DIEGO — As the USS Bonhomme Richard burns for its fourth day, the Port of San Diego Harbor Police have been helping with the firefight.
The agency is the only police-firefighter department in the country that trains on a free-floating, moving barge to simulate ship fires. Harbor Police officers are tasked with both the duties of law enforcement and fire fighting on the water.
“Fighting fire on the water is very difficult and you’re going to see that in a couple of minutes because everything is moving unlike a fire on land,” said Port of San Diego Harbor Police Chief Mark Stainbrook.
Officers say their dual and unique training helps them prepare for shipboard fires like the one burning on USS Bonhomme Richard.
“Hands down the largest fire, ship fire I’ve ever seen,” said Harbor Police Corporal Matt Oakley. “We’ve responded to quite a few big ones.”
Harbor Police helped the Navy for six hours by cooling the ship’s hull. The Navy also asked them temperature reads to find hotspots on the ship.
“It’s very dangerous because there’s a lot of chemicals and things that can burn and fighting a fire on a vessel is very claustrophobic, and constructing, it’s very hot,” says Chief Stainbrook.
They say it’s this diverse training that makes these police officers ready to help as the Bonhomme Richard continues to burn.
“Our thoughts and prayers to go to the sailors and the firemen of federal fire that have been fighting this fire three or four days now and we hope they’re doing well and we’re proud of them,” says Chief Stainbrook.
Harbor Police say they have allowed Navy tug boats take the lead on the fire fight but officers are ready to help if needed.