USS Bonhomme Richard Fire Post Incident Review
On Sunday, July 12, 2020, while docked at the San Diego Naval Station for overhaul, a fire broke out aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard. The fire burned for five days, sending smoke into communities downwind of the fire. Many members of the community voiced concerns about how the San Diego Air Pollution Control District (District) responded to the incident, as well as the impact from the fire on their health. These concerns prompted the Environmental Health Coalition to request CARB conduct an evaluation of the District’s air quality monitoring response and related actions during the incident, and issue a report containing recommendations aimed to improve preparedness and strengthen air monitoring responses to future events.
CARB formed an interagency working group and selected agencies with a variety of expertise and broad perspectives to conduct a post-incident review to assess how agencies involved in the response communicated, coordinated, and reacted during the incident. CARB’s Incident Air Monitoring Section, Air Quality Planning and Science, and Research Divisions, along with the District, and the San Diego County Office of Emergency Services (SD OES) convened as the primary working group. The working group held learning-focused review sessions and consulted with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), California Environmental Protection Agency, California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, California Office Spill Prevention and Recovery, California Office of Emergency Services, and local community groups to identify deficiencies and opportunities for improvement.
In September of 2021, CARB hosted a public workshop to present key findings identified during the working group’s evaluation and to gather input and feedback from the community on areas they believe the District should consider as it prepares plans for future air quality emergencies. Comments and concerns communicated by the public during the workshop, combined with recommendations from the working group were incorporated into the District's updated incident response plan. The San Diego Air Pollution Control District’s Governing Board officially adopted the District’s Incident Response Plan in January 2022. The USS Bonhomme Richard Fire Post Incident Review Report may also be used by other local agencies to improve emergency response preparedness in the San Diego area.
Since the incident and the adoption of its plan, the District has been collaborating with the U.S. Navy and other local response agencies to improve emergency preparedness by revising its internal response procedures and developing improved public communication and messaging protocols for use during emergency air quality episodes. In addition, SD OES is in the process of updating its response planning protocols to include clarifications of the District's role in emergency response, U.S EPA is enhancing its public health assessment program for use during environmental emergencies, and the U.S Navy has taken action to reduce fleetwide risk of fires on ships undergoing maintenance while also enhancing their emergency response capabilities.
The complete USS Bonhomme Richard Fire Post Incident Review Report, which includes incident background, findings and recommendations, analysis of air monitoring data, an assessment of associated health impacts, and additional resources and information, as well as a fact sheet for the report, can be found at the following links: