Fire aboard cargo ship still burning; 9 firefighters recovering after explosion

At least 120 JFRD personnel brought in to battle fire, chief says

More than 120 JFRD personnel were brought in to battle fire that began nearly 15 hours ago. There is also a 500-yard safety zone around the ship to keep other ones from getting too close. More crews are on the ground this morning working to determine a game plane to effectively put it out. News4jax reporter Ashley Harding joins us live near Blount Island. Ashley, what started the initial fire is still under investigation.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A massive fire is still burning aboard a cargo ship at Blount Island while several injured firefighters were reported to be in stable condition. The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department said 9 firefighters were injured trying to contain the blaze.

According to Fire Chief Keith Powers, eight firefighters were injured in an explosion, and an additional firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion.

“It’s a tough situation and very dangerous -- that’s one of the most dangerous situations firefighters encounter is when they’re in a ship fire,” Powers said.

This morning more firefighters were seen arriving to help, including some with maritime expertise. Crews are spraying the ship with water, not to try to extinguish the flames, but to keep the ship’s exterior cool.

Good morning, everyone. Sorry about the weird thumbnail shot, but wanted to make a quick FB Live for you all. More crews are being brought in to try to contain this massive fire inside this cargo ship at Blount Island. Here is the latest —>

Posted by Ashley Harding TV on Friday, June 5, 2020

An oil response team is also on the way to the docked ship. To protect the environment, the team plans to put an oil boom in the river. There is already a 500-yard safety zone established around the ship.

PHOTO GALLERY: Cargo ship fire

Crews with the U.S. Coast Guard were seen in the river late Thursday night spraying the ship with water along the exterior of the hull.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry asked for prayers from the local community on social media and Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office shared well wishes for firefighters, calling them brothers and sisters.

According to Powers, the fire started on the seventh deck of the ship. Approximately 120 JFRD personnel were sent to battle the initial fire. The ship was loaded with automobiles.

Firefighters closed the ship’s dampers to starve the fire of oxygen. At about 6:45 p.m., the explosion that injured the firefighters occurred.

RELATED: Maritime expert explains why cargo ship fire is particularly hazardous

Captain Mark Vlaun with the U.S. Coast Guard said the number one goal for crews throughout the night was to maintain the structural integrity of the ship.

“The effort really remains, one, of trying to protect the environment and to control and contain the fire as best we can to ensure that we don’t lose the structural integrity and risk having any pollution out in the water,” Vlaun said.

According to Vlaun, an oil spill response team was being brought in by Resolve Marine.

“They’ll be putting an oil boom around the vessel to contain the threat of any pollution,” he said. “At this point, we do not have any pollution from or spill associated with this fire, but out of caution, we are going to begin booming the vessel, so that if there is any pollution at any point that we’ll be able to contain that spill.”

The injured firefighters were not identified. Of the eight who where hospitalized, Powers said as of 10:15 p.m. that:

  • Four were taken to a burn unit in Gainesville
  • One was undergoing surgery
  • One was in an intensive care unit
  • Two were on the trauma floor at UF Health

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