The US Navy charged a sailor with starting a fire last year that destroyed the USS Bonhomme Richard docked off San Diego, marking the maritime branch’s worst warship blaze outside of combat in recent memory. The amphibious assault ship burned for more than four days. Left with extensive structural, electrical and mechanical damage, the ship was later scrapped. Estimates to replace it ran up to US$4 billion. The sailor was a member of the crew at the time, Commander Sean Robertson, a US 3rd Fleet spokesperson, said in a statement. The sailor was charged with aggravated arson and the wilful hazarding of a vessel, Robertson said. No name was released. Fire on board the USS Bonhomme Richard, in pictures “The sailor was a member of Bonhomme Richard’s crew at the time and is accused of starting the fire,” Robertson said. 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 US$250 million when the fire broke out on July 12, 2020. About 160 sailors and officers were on board when the flames sent up a huge plume of dark smoke from the 256-metre vessel, which had been docked at Naval Base San Diego while undergoing the upgrade. 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 the flames spread up the lift shafts and exhaust stacks. Then two explosions – one heard as far as 21km (13 miles) away – caused it to grow even bigger. The fire sent acrid smoke billowing over San Diego, and officials had recommended people avoid exercising outdoors. Dramatic photos show new US aircraft carrier in explosion ‘shock trial’ 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. US Navy officials said last August that they were investigating the fire as a possible arson. In November the US Navy said it would decommission the Bonhomme Richard, which was commissioned in 1998 and designed to carry US Marine Corps attack helicopters and ground troops into battle.