USS Bonhomme Richard on fire in San Diego

US Navy Charges Sailor Over Fire That Destroyed Warship

USS Bonhomme Richard on fire in San Diego

The US Navy says it has charged a sailor with starting a fire last year that destroyed a vessel docked off San Diego.

The USS Bonhomme Richard burned for more than four days and is thought to be the service's worst American warship fire outside of combat in recent memory.

The amphibious assault ship was left with extensive structural, electrical and mechanical damage and was later scrapped, costing the navy billions of dollars.

No other details were provided, and it was unclear what evidence was found or what the motive was.

The amphibious assault ships are among the few in the US fleet that can act as a mini-aircraft carrier.

The Bonhomme Richard had been nearing the end of a two-year upgrade estimated to cost $250 million when the fire broke out in July 2020.

About 160 sailors and officers were on board when the flames sent up a huge plume of dark smoke from the 840ft vessel, which had been docked at Naval Base San Diego while undergoing the upgrade.

Helicopters fight fire on USS Bonhomme Richard
The USS Bonhomme Richard was a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship in the US Navy (Picture: US Navy).

The fire started in the ship’s lower storage area, where cardboard boxes, rags and other maintenance supplies were stored.

But winds coming off the San Diego Bay whipped up the flames and they spread up the lift shafts and exhaust stacks.

Then two explosions – one heard as far as 13 miles away – caused it to grow even bigger.

The fire sent acrid smoke billowing over San Diego, and officials recommended people avoid exercising outdoors.

Firefighters attacked the flames inside the ship, while firefighting vessels with water cannons directed streams of seawater into the ship and helicopters made water drops.

More than 60 sailors and civilians were treated for minor injuries, heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation.

Cover image: US Navy.

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