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ARLINGTON, Va. — Improperly stored flammable materials may have played a role in a recent fire aboard the USS George Washington that led to two dozen sailors being treated for minor injuries, according to the Navy.

Sailors spent hours fighting the May 22 blaze, which prompted the Navy to postpone next week’s scheduled transfer of about 900 sailors and the air wing from the USS Kitty Hawk to the George Washington.

"While that investigation is still in progress and no specific cause has been identified, there are early indications that improper stowage of flammable and combustible material contributed to the spread and intensity of the fire," said Navy spokesman Cmdr. Jeff Davis.

As a result, the Navy has issued an advisory detailing how flammable and combustible materials should be stored, Davis said in an e-mail on Monday.

The message does not say specifically how these materials might have contributed to the fire aboard the George Washington.

"We are issuing the advisory as a prudent measure to ensure that all ships take a look at how they are storing flammable and combustible material in advance of the outcome of the investigation," Davis said.

The message from Naval Sea Systems Command lists two types of combustible materials, the first of which consists of material that have a flashpoint below 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

"These materials are fire hazards because they produce ignitable vapors at low temperatures, often at normal room temperatures (below 100 degrees F)," the message said.

The second category of such materials have a flashpoint above 200 degrees Fahrenheit, such as petroleum products, paint, cleaning compounds and oil-soaked rags, the message said.

Petroleum-based products generate heat in a tightly closed container, and if they get hot enough, they can self-ignite, said Mike Dunn, a firefighter with Alexandria Fire Department in Virginia.

"These materials are major fire hazards because they can be easily ignited by fire or hostile action and can spread fire rapidly by the flow of flaming liquids or through explosions," according to the message.

The message does not say how flammable materials were stowed on the George Washington.


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