Smoke continued to billow from the Höegh Xiamen Friday afternoon, 24 hours after a fire was reported aboard the vehicle carrier at JAXPORT.
Höegh Autoliners said the fire broke out about 4 p.m. Thursday on the seventh deck of the vessel shortly after loading operations at Blount Island in Jacksonville, Florida, were completed.
The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department (JFRD) tweeted that while on board battling the blaze, several firefighters were burned when an explosion occurred.
According to reports, four injured firefighters were transported to the UF Health Shands burn unit in Gainesville, Florida — two by helicopter and two by ambulance. Four others were taken to UF Health in Jacksonville. One firefighter reportedly was treated for heat exhaustion.
JFRD said all but three of the injured firefighters were expected to be released from the hospital Friday. Chief Keith Powers said skin grafts and surgeries were scheduled for the other three.
Höegh Autoliners said all 21 crew members aboard the Xiamen had been evacuated and none were injured.
A crew from the U.S. Coast Guard Station Mayport responded to the scene Thursday and established a 500-yard safety zone around the ship while the cause of the fire is under investigation.
The Höegh Xiamen had sailed from Freeport, Texas, and arrived in Jacksonville on Wednesday reportedly to pick up used vehicles. The 600-foot vehicle carrier has a capacity of 12,250 deadweight tons.
Höegh is headquartered in Norway and the vessel sails under the Norwegian flag. The Höegh Xiamen, named during an October 2010 ceremony at Xiamen Shipbuilding Industries in China, is commercially operated by Grimaldi Deep Sea S.p.A., headquartered in Palermo, Sicily, according to Höegh Autoliners’ website.
Höegh Autoliners added Jacksonville to its ports of call in March 2018. Höegh said it operates pure car and truck carriers on 12 trade routes.
As of Friday afternoon, the fire still had not been extinguished. JFRD had tweeted late Thursday night, “This likely will be days … not hours.”
As the smoke mixed with low-hanging rain clouds Friday afternoon, boats sprayed continuous jets of water onto the Höegh Xiamen. According to local television news, fire crews were “working to save the integrity of the cargo ship to help contain any pollution from getting into the ocean.”
JAXPORT said its cargo operations at Blount Island continued uninterrupted on Friday but advised those there to “use extreme caution due to reduced visibility in the area.”
In a statement, JAXPORT said, “We are grateful for the quick response of our partner agencies and we are praying for the [JFRD] firefighters who were injured while bravely fighting the fire, the health care workers who are treating them and the first responders who continue to serve on the scene.”
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