Florida Firefighters Hospitalized After Fighting Ship Explosion: They Have a 'Long Recovery Ahead'

Nine firefighters were hospitalized on Thursday after a cargo ship in Florida exploded while responders were aboard putting out a fire, authorities said.

Nearly three hours after 150 firefighters were sent to Blount Island to respond to the blaze on a Norwegian vessel, the ship exploded with "crews inside fighting the fire," Jacksonville Fire Chief Keith Powers told the Associated Press.

Over 20 crew members aboard the ship, named Hoegh Xiamen, were able to safely get off the boat during the initial fire.

The ship was carrying old and used cars, and was scheduled to leave from Jacksonville, according to First Coast News. At 7:11 p.m. on Thursday, the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department tweeted about the explosion and noted that "firefighters are hurt."

The department shared late Thursday night that eight firefighters were brought to the hospital, four of whom were taken to the Shands Gainesville burn unit, two by helicopter and two by ground transport.

"They are all stable, but with serious injuries," the JFRD added.

“This is one of the days where you roll up on something like this and it’s one of the worst things probably in a career that you will ever do," Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters president Randy Wyse told the Florida Times-Union.

On Friday, the department gave an update on the injured firefighters, writing that "all but 2 are expected to be released from the hospital today… one is going into surgery today, the other is scheduled to have surgery early next week."

“Burns take a lot time to heal,” Powers said, per the AP. “Please everyone, keep them in your prayers. They’ll need a lot of that.”

After speaking with the injured firefighters, Wyse said the responders will have "a long recovery ahead of them."

A representative from the JFRD did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

On Saturday, three days after the explosion, the JFRD shared that they are still "cooling the ship with more than 25,000 gallons of water per minute on all sides."

It remains unclear as to how the fire initially started.

According to the Florida Times-Union, the state fire marshal, National Transportation Safety Board, and Coast Guard are conducting an investigation to determine the cause of the blaze.

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