Sailor investigated for possibly starting fire on Navy ship USS Bonhomme Richard

The Navy is debating whether to keep the ship after the damage.
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U.S. Navy via Reuters, FILE Boats combat a fire on board the U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard at Naval Base San Diego, July 12, 2020.

(ABC News) – A U.S. Navy sailor is being questioned by investigators for possible arson after allegedly starting the massive fire on the USS Bonhomme Richard in San Diego in July, according to defense officials.

The almost week-long fire caused so much damage that the Navy is now debating whether it makes sense to keep the large amphibious assault ship in service.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) has identified the sailor, serving aboard the ship, as the potential suspect that may have started the blaze, a U.S. official said.

The investigation is still ongoing and no charges have yet been pressed, another official said.

“The Navy will not comment on an ongoing investigation to protect the integrity of the investigative process and all those involved,” said Lt. Timothy Pietrack, a U.S. Navy spokesman. “We have nothing to announce at this time.”

KGTV, ABC’s affiliate in San Diego, was first to report the details that a sailor may have been responsible for the fire on the ship.

Multiple sources told KGTV that various search warrants were executed at the sailor’s home and property. The sailor’s name and rank were not disclosed.

The fire began on the morning of July 12, in a storage area above where Marine Corps vehicles are usually stored on the large amphibious assault ship that looks like an aircraft carrier.

The fire quickly spread to the ship’s hangar deck, where it spread throughout most of the ship’s upper decks and raged for five days before it was finally extinguished.

Navy officials said at the time that the temperatures reached as high as 1,200 degrees when the flames were at their peak.

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