A historic wooden hangar that once housed military blimps during World War II was destroyed by a massive fire in Tustin, Orange County, on Tuesday morning. The fire started around 1:30 a.m. inside the north hangar at the former Marine Corps Air Station Tustin, located at Valencia Avenue and Armstrong Road. Firefighters from the Orange County Fire Authority and other agencies responded to the scene but were unable to enter the structure due to the risk of collapse. Instead, they used aerial and groundwater streams to try to contain the fire, which sent huge plumes of smoke into the sky that were visible for miles. The fire authority said that allowing the structure to collapse was the only way to fight the fire, and that it could take several days to fully extinguish the blaze.
The north hangar was one of two built-in 1942 for the U.S. Navy, which used lighter-than-air ships, or blimps, for patrol and anti-submarine defense during World War II. The hangars are 17 stories high, more than 1,000 feet long and 300 feet wide, making them among the largest wooden structures ever built. The hangars are also considered historic civil engineering landmarks of the 20th century by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The Navy installation became a Marine Corps air station in the 1950s and closed in 1999. Since then, the hangars have been used for various purposes, including filming locations for TV shows and movies, such as “JAG”, “The X Files”, “Austin Powers”, “Pearl Harbor” and “Star Trek”.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but the fire authority said that there was no indication of arson or foul play. The hangar was vacant and had no utilities or power, and there were no reports of injuries or evacuations. The fire authority also said that it was in contact with the Navy, which still owns the property, and that it was working to protect the environment and the historical artifacts inside the hangar. The hangar contained several vintage aircraft, vehicles and memorabilia from the World War II era, some of which may have been damaged or destroyed by the fire.
The fire has sparked an outpouring of sadness and nostalgia from the local community and beyond, as many people have shared their memories and photos of the hangar on social media. The hangar was a symbol of the military and aviation history of Tustin and Orange County and a landmark that could be seen from the nearby freeways and roads. Many people also expressed their hope that the hangar could be restored or rebuilt, or at least preserved in some way. The fire authority said that it was too early to determine the fate of the hangar, and that it would depend on the Navy’s plans and the availability of funding.
The fire also raised questions about the future of the south hangar, which is still standing and in better condition than the north hangar. The south hangar is currently leased by the city of Tustin, which has plans to convert it into a regional park and a mixed-use development. The city has been working on securing grants and partnerships to fund the project, which would include preserving the hangar’s exterior and creating a museum, a library, a sports complex, a hotel, and a retail and entertainment center inside the hangar. The city has also been hosting various events and tours at the hangar to raise awareness and support for the project. The city said that it was saddened by the loss of the north hangar, and that it was committed to preserving the south hangar as a historical and cultural asset for the region.