By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class
Charles Newcomer, USS Blue Ridge Public Affairs
CEBU, Philippines – While making a
port call to Cebu, Philippines, USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) Sailors
responded to a request from local authorities to assist in combating
a fire that broke out on the super ferry Manila Bay I on Feb. 12.
The Philippine vessel was undergoing repairs while docked in Cebu,
when sparks from a welding job started an intense fire that ripped
through the ship’s bridge and continued to burn two decks down and
spread toward the aft section of the ship.
Chief Warrant Officer Ryan Taylor, Blue Ridge Damage Control
Assistant, prepped the rescue and assistance response team as they
departed the ship and set out to help the distressed Philippine
“This is what we train for. This is our job,” Taylor told his team.
“This is going to be a team effort and we don’t want anyone to get
hurt, so if you see something unsafe speak up so we can help these
people out as much as possible. Communication and safety are going
to be of the utmost importance.”
Initially, the Manila Bay I crew and the Philippine Coast Guard
attempted to combat and control the fire themselves. When fire
re-flashes occurred, the fire gained more intensity and burned out
of control. That is when the call for U.S. Navy assistance was made
and Blue Ridge firefighters jumped into action.
Fifteen Sailors departed the ship and transported firefighting gear
with de-watering and de-smoking equipment across the harbor and to
the scene, where they were able to actively assist in controlling
the fire, overhauling the effected areas, de-water the ship, and
correct the six degree list, or tilt the ship incurred as a result
of combating the blaze.
The U.S. Navy’s presence contributed to the safety and overall
effectiveness of fighting the fire as no injuries occurred during
the six hour operation.
“Some of the gear the local crew was using was damaged or degraded
at best,” said Senior Chief Damage Controlman (SW) Leif Lairson, who
led the rescue and assistance efforts. “Their firefighters were
using hoses with holes and wearing shorts and flip flops, so a lot
of our gear was in better shape and we were able to help the effort
Local authorities and crewmembers of the ship were thankful for the
Blue Ridge’s quick and professional response. A senior member of the
Manila Bay I crew, enthusiastically praised the Blue Ridge team.
“We had a little fire this morning on board the ship that went out
of control… until the Navy came in and saved the day,” he said.
“Thanks a lot Navy!”
Members of the rescue and assistance team didn’t hesitate to help
the local Cebu community. Most said they were excited and proud to
use the skills they acquired through their Navy training in a real
“This is damage control and this is what we do,” said Hull
Technician 2nd Class (SW) Cade Brock. “These people needed our help
today and we rose to the occasion. We’re glad to help them out by
taking care of business and putting the fires out.”
Blue Ridge is visiting the Philippines as part of Project Kaibigan,
which means “friendship” in Tagalog. It is an operation involving
the crew and embarked U.S. 7th Fleet staff, Marines and Seabees who
are conducting numerous community service projects and medical and
dental projects for local schools, clinics and other areas in the
USS Blue Ridge is a Blue Ridge-class amphibious command ship. As the
flagship for Commander, U.S. Seventh Fleet, Blue Ridge provides the
highest quality capability for seagoing command-and-control of
theater level forces by naval and joint commanders during peacetime
or conflict, and provides preeminent naval support for U.S.
diplomatic initiatives and objectives. Blue Ridge is 634 feet long,
108 feet wide, and displaces 18, 874 tons fully loaded. The ship can
reach speeds of 23 knots and has a complement of 819 ship's company
and approximately 240 staff personnel.
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