Massive fire burns through historic hangar at former air base in Tustin

Originally Published: 07 NOV 23 14:00 ET
By Eric Resendiz

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TUSTIN, California (KABC) — A massive fire ripped through a historic hangar at a former air base in Orange County Tuesday morning, prompting a large response from fire crews.

The three-alarm fire was reported around 1 a.m. at the north hangar in Tustin, near Valencia Avenue and Armstrong Road, according to the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA).

It was so large, firefighters used a helicopter to try to put out the flames that consumed the structure standing 17 stories high. Crews also attacked from the ground.

Fire officials said one of the challenges they faced was the lack of water on the property. Crews were using long hose to pump in water from hydrants on nearby streets.

“The overall goal is put this fire out safely without compromising anyone’s safety,” said Captain Thanh Nguyen. “The good news is that there are no civilians working in the area. So, we’re going to take it at a good pace to actually be able to extinguish this fire.”

Nguyen could not say if there was anything inside the hangar.

Hours after the fire started, officials said crews pulled back from the fight due to the “imminent danger of collapse.” The OCFA said the they would let the structure safely collapse before crews moved in to extinguish any leftover embers or flames.

The hangar is one of the largest wooden structures ever built, and it is one of two air hangars built in 1942 at the former Marine Corps Air Station Tustin. The historic landmark has been featured in several shows and films, including “Pearl Harbor,” “Star Trek” and “Austin Powers.”

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The firefight woke up nearby residents, some leaving their home to see the blaze.

“I woke up and heard all these helicopters flying over and I looked out and saw the smoke and the flames,” said Steve Kinney. “These things have been here since as long as I’ve been around and it’s hard to believe that this one’s probably going away.”

“To lose these, we’ll never see anything like this again.”

No neighborhoods needed to be evacuated.

Meanwhile, the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

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