SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — San Diego County officials on Monday urged residents who live near the U.S.S. Bonhomme Richard to limit their time outdoors because of smoke and the odor from the onboard fire.
Residents across the county reported seeing the smoke and smelling a burnt plastic or electric odor.
“It is never good to breathe smoke and members of the public should assume that they are being impacted if they smell smoke or if their eyes are burning,” said San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher.
The Navy and local authorities are monitoring the air quality.
Portable monitoring stations have been brought into the area to supplement permanent stations. The closest reporting station is at Sherman Elementary School, which at 8 a.m. Monday had an air quality index of 134.
An index between 101 and 150 indicates “members of sensitive groups may experience health effects. The general public is less likely to be affected.” It returned to a level of moderate concern an hour later and remained there for the remainder of the day.
“It's best to just reduce your exposure as much as possible. Even without hard numbers, just realize it's not the best thing in the world to breathe,” said William Brick with the San Diego Air Pollution Control District. “The fires oftentimes hot enough to reduce some of the toxicity. But we really don't know everything that's in the air.”
Navy officials said the fire aboard the Bonhomme Richard is a Class A Fire that is fueled by items found in a traditional office environment. They stressed there were no extraordinary items burning despite the fire occurring on a warship.
“There’s plastic going around cabling, there’s different rags, different things we use to clean and maintain the ship,” explained Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group Three.
Navy officials added they are continuing to monitor the environmental impact of the fire, both to the water and air, and will make adjustments as needed.
County leaders equated conditions to what residents typically experience during a wildfire, except this fire is occurring in a concentrated and densely populated area and the smoke is traveling over a large swath of the county depending on the wind.
“It's still concerning to us that the numbers are in the atmosphere, that people are breathing it. That's why we tell people to exercise some caution,” said Brick. “We don't like to see those kind of numbers, but we see them from time to time.”