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Defense Official: Arson Suspected As Cause Of USS Bonhomme Richard Fire

Sailors and Federal Fire Department San Diego firefighters combat a fire aboa...

Credit: U.S. Navy

Above: Sailors and Federal Fire Department San Diego firefighters combat a fire aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) at Naval Base San Diego, July 14, 2020.

A sailor is under investigation for suspected arson aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard mid-July, a defense official told KPBS on Wednesday.

The July 12 fire caused extensive damage to the amphibious assault ship, which was undergoing maintenance at Naval Base San Diego at the time. The defense official with knowledge of the investigation said one sailor is being questioned as a possible suspect.

The official spoke to KPBS on condition of anonymity to provide details not yet made public.

Officially, the Navy is remaining mum on the subject.

“The Navy will not comment on an ongoing investigation to protect the integrity of the investigative process and all those involved," a Navy spokesperson told KPBS. "We have nothing to announce at this time.”

The fire sent acrid smoke over the harbor and much of the city. The Navy still has not decided whether the ship, which burned for more than four days, can or should be repaired.

"I am 100% confident that our defense industry can put this ship back to sea," Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday told reporters on July 17. "But, having said that, the question is: Should we make that investment on a 22-year-old ship?"

KPBS web producers Alexander Nguyen and Lara McCaffrey contributed to this story.

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Steve Walsh
Military Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover military and veterans issues for KPBS and American Homefront, a partnership of public radio stations and NPR. I cover issues ranging from delpoying troops along the California border to efforts to lower suicide rates among veterans.

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