On November 7, 2023, a massive fire destroyed a historic hangar at the former Marine Corps Air Station Tustin in California. The hangar, which was built in 1942, was one of the largest wooden structures in the world and was used to house blimps during World War II.
The fire broke out at around 1:30 a.m. and quickly spread through the hangar, which was filled with combustible materials. Firefighters from multiple agencies responded to the scene, but the hangar was engulfed in flames by the time they arrived.
Due to the size and intensity of the fire, firefighters were unable to save the hangar. The structure partially collapsed on itself early Tuesday morning, and the fire was finally extinguished later that day.
No one was injured in the fire, but the loss of the hangar is a major blow to the Tustin community. The hangar was a popular tourist attraction and a symbol of the city’s rich military history.
Asbestos detected in hangar fire debris
On November 9, 2023, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) announced that asbestos had been detected in samples of debris and ash collected near the hangar. Asbestos is a known carcinogen, and exposure to asbestos fibers can cause serious health problems, including lung cancer and mesothelioma.
In response to the discovery of asbestos, the Tustin Unified School District closed all schools on Thursday, November 10, 2023. The district said that the closure was necessary to protect students and staff from potential exposure to asbestos fibers.
The AQMD is advising residents to avoid contact with any debris or ash from the hangar fire. If you must come into contact with debris or ash, the AQMD recommends wearing a mask and gloves to protect yourself from exposure to asbestos fibers.
Investigation into hangar fire ongoing
The cause of the hangar fire is still under investigation. The Orange County Fire Authority said that the fire appears to have started in the center of the hangar, but the exact cause is unknown.
The fire is a major setback for the city of Tustin, which has been working to revitalize the former air base. The city had planned to convert the hangar into a mixed-use development with retail, office, and residential space.
The city has not yet announced what plans it has for the hangar site in light of the fire. However, the city council has said that it is committed to rebuilding the hangar and preserving its historic significance.