USS Bonhomme Richard Fire Investigation Points To Arson

An investigation of the fire that erupted aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard on July 12th, appears to be the work of an arsonist. A Department of Defense source close to the investigation confirmed that a U.S. Navy sailor has been identified as a potential suspect.

The USS Bonhomme Richards was in the midst of a two-year upgrade project while docked in the San Diego Bay when the fire broke out. The fire, which injured more than 60 sailors and civilians,took 4 days to extinguish and the concentrated efforts of roughly 400 people, including military, San Diego, and federal firefighters. With damage to 11 of its 14 decks, it is not yet known whether the ship can be salvaged and the estimated cost of replacing it is $4 billion dollars.

On July 16, Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Michael Gilday told Defense News that there would be transparency in the fire's investigation, “This is a very, very serious incident that I think will force the Navy to stand back and reevaluate itself,” Gilday said. “We’ve got to follow the facts, we’ve got to be honest with ourselves and we’ve got to get after it. My intention, once the investigations are done, is to make this available for the public to debate, including what we need to do to get after any systemic problems that we might have.”

On July 22nd, General Dynamics NASSCO in San Diego was awarded a $10 million dollar contract to "continue emergency firefighting and ongoing cleanup efforts aboard amphibious warship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6)," according to a Pentagon contract announcement. NASSCO is the shipyard that was making the upgrades on the Bonhomme when the fire broke out, the new dollar figure modifies the previous contract.

On July 24th, the U.S. Navy confirmed that a "thorough investigation to determine the facts and circumstances surrounding the fire aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard" would be conducted by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) as well as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) National Response Team. The ATF and NRT were included because of their expertise in the area of fire investigations.

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