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Historic Tustin Blimp Hanger Fire Prompts School, Park Closures

Historic Tustin Blimp Hanger Fire Prompts School, Park Closures

A historic blimp hangar burns in Tustin, Calif., on Nov. 7, 2023. (Jae C. Hong/AP Photo)

City News Service

City News Service

11/9/2023

Updated: 11/9/2023

TUSTIN, Calif.—All schools in the Tustin Unified School District were closed Nov. 9 due to health concerns stemming from smoke and ash emanating from the smoldering remnants of a fire that destroyed a historic World War II-era blimp hangar at the former Tustin Air Base.
The fire erupted around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday at the massive hangar at Valencia Avenue and Armstrong Road. Due to the size of the structure and the difficulty of safely reaching the flames, Orange County Fire Authority crews opted to pull back and allow the wooden building to burn, essentially allowing the fire to consume the structure.
While fire activity dramatically lessened into Wednesday night, smoke and ash prompted warnings from the South Coast Air Quality Management District about unhealthy air quality. Residents were urged to avoid exposure by remaining indoors as much as possible with windows and doors closed, and to avoid strenuous outdoor activity.
On Wednesday night, the air quality agency announced that testing of the debris and ash from the fire showed the presence of asbestos, prompting an even stronger call for residents to take precautions.
As a result, Tustin Unified Superintendent Mark Johnson announced the closure of all of the district’s schools on Thursday.
Parents and students gather at the Tustin Unified School District Board of Education in Tustin, Calif., on Aug. 23, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Parents and students gather at the Tustin Unified School District Board of Education in Tustin, Calif., on Aug. 23, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

The city of Tustin, meanwhile, announced the closure of multiple parks:
  • The Annex at Tustin Legacy
  • Tustin Legacy Park
  • Veterans Sports Park
  • Tustin Sports Park
  • Victory Park
  • Centennial Park
  • Frontier Park
  • Ron Foell Park
  • Pine Tree Park, 1402 Bryan Ave.
The city’s Veterans Day Celebration and Car Show scheduled for Saturday has been canceled, the city announced.
Orange County health officials urged people in the area to limit their exposure to smoke and ash.
“Everyone should be aware of the recommended precautions to reduce the health effects of smoke and ash from building fires,” Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, Orange County Health Officer and OC Health Care Agency’s Director of Public Health Services, said in a statement.
“Extra measures may be needed for those with pre-existing medical conditions like heart or lung disease, those with disabilities, older adults, children, and those who may be working outdoors.”
The two giant hangars at the air base were built in 1942 and once housed blimps used in World War II.
Snow capped Mount San Antonio overcasts a Tustin blimp hangar, shot from Irvine, Calif., on Jan. 26, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Snow capped Mount San Antonio overcasts a Tustin blimp hangar, shot from Irvine, Calif., on Jan. 26, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the hangars stand 17 stories high, are over 1,000 feet long and 300 feet wide—and are two of the largest wooden structures ever built, according to the website Tustin Hangars.
The hangars have been featured in television and films, including “JAG,” “The X-Files,” “Austin Powers,” “Pearl Harbor,” and “Star Trek.”
Anyone with information that might be helpful to investigators was asked to call 714-573-3225. Orange County Crime Stoppers will accept anonymous tips at (855) TIP-OCCS.
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