JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department is asking for continued prayers for its firefighters who were injured in an explosion while battling a fire on a cargo ship docked at Blount Island. On Saturday, the blaze continued to burn, and experts say it could continue for days.
Eight firefighters were injured in the blast, which occurred on Thursday. Fire Chief Keith Powers said at least four have significant burns and will be off the job for “a long time.” A ninth firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion.
Five of the eight firefighters who were hospitalized were released on Friday, according to Jacksonville Fire and Rescue.
Powers said that crews on Saturday will be doing some surveying to figure out the next plan of attack. The U.S. Coast Guard said because of the tireless efforts to spray water on the ship’s exterior, the vessel’s hull has remained intact -- keeping it from breaking up and sinking, which is a good thing for safety and potential environmental impacts.
These photos from JFRD were taken by drones with infrared cameras to measure the temperatures and show the hottest areas of the ship glowing red. On the first day of it burning — the hottest temperatures inside were over 1,000 degrees.
The Coast Guard said the cars were melting inside. The hull itself never rose above 350 degrees.
“Those temperatures right now remain in the 90 to 100 degree range, which is about as successful as you can be in blocking the temperature from coming down and keeping the fire moving up," said Capt. Mark Vlaun with the Coast Guard. "In terms of marine firefighting that’s why this has been a success at this point.”
Approximately 25,000 gallons of water are being sprayed on the exterior of the ship every minute to protect the integrity and keep it afloat, according to JFRD. Firefighting crews are rotating every four hours. The goal is to get it to a stage where they eventually and safely can remove all the fuel off the ship.
Firefighters will not be sent back inside to battle the fire. They’re letting it burn out.
The Coast Guard said there are no signs of contaminants in the water. Oil booms have been placed as a precaution.
Investigators are trying to determine what caused the fire.
The ship, a 600-foot Norwegian vessel called Höegh Xiamen was carrying used cars and was scheduled to leave Jacksonville.
Blount Island terminal remains open during the fire, JaxPort announced in a statement.
“We are grateful for the quick response of our partner agencies and we are praying for the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department firefighters who were injured while bravely fighting the fire, the healthcare workers who are treating them and the first responders who continue to serve on the scene,” JaxPort wrote. “A safety zone has been set up around the vessel and other cargo operations at Blount Island continue uninterrupted. Anyone working at Blount Island is asked to use extreme caution due to reduced visibility in the area.”
Thor Jørgen Guttormsen, CEO of Höegh Autoliners, released a statement thanking JFRD, the Coast Guard and JaxPort involving in tackling the fire.
Unfortunately, a number of members of the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department sustained injuries courageously tackling this blaze. My thoughts and the thoughts of everyone here at Höegh Autoliners, are very much with them today as we wish them a swift recovery," Guttormsen said. Jacksonville firefighters responded immediately and have worked tirelessly to control the fire. They must receive our sincere gratitude for their professional response and their sheer hard work."