Efforts underway to ‘deconstruct' blimp hangar in Tustin

Tustin Fire
Photo credit Emily Valdez KNX News 97.1 FM

Workers were tearing down a massive World War II blimp hangar at the former Tustin Marine Base this weekend in an effort to put out remaining hot spots of a stubborn fire that broke out earlier this month, while officials cautioned the public to avoid the area Monday with high winds in the forecast.

On Saturday, authorities said details of the hangar's deconstruction plan were being finalized, with the project planned to take place over the next 24 to 48 hours.

"The intent of this effort is to extinguish all remaining hot spots of the hangar fire," according to a statement by the Incident Management Team. "At the present time, no action will be taken on the hangar doors or concrete pillars, which will be addressed upon completion of this first step. A plan is being developed to stabilize the doors in place for the safety of our workers and the public."

On Sunday, officials at the OC Animal Care Center said the facility will temporarily close to the public Monday and Tuesday, "due to the upcoming high wind event forecasted by the National Weather Service, the shelter's close proximity to the north hangar and the city of Tustin Incident Management Team announcement of the controlled deconstruction of the remaining structure, as well as the continued effort to prioritize the health and safety of staff, visitors, and animals on campus."

Staff will continue to be on-site caring for more than 450 animals, and all activities are being shifted indoors when possible.

Residents with animal-related emergencies were asked to call 714-935- 6848 to speak to a dispatcher, but officials said response times might be longer than usual.

The OC Animal Care Center is located at 1630 Victory Road in Tustin.

The fire destroyed the iconic hangar in the early morning of Nov. 7. A later "flare-up" renewed environmental concerns. Debris and ash from the fire showed the presence of asbestos, prompting authorities to issue warnings about unhealthy air and urge residence to remain indoors with windows and doors closed.

Monitoring at the former Marine Corps Air Station at Warner Avenue and Legacy Road was to be performed at 33 locations through the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the South Coast Air Quality Management District. That includes dust monitors around the immediate perimeter and monitoring and sampling stations around the fence line and in the surrounding community providing real-time data, officials said.

Heavy equipment will remove debris and clear roadways so water trucks can access all areas of the hangar, officials said. Excavators will knock down what's left of the west-facing wall to enable access to heavy debris and deep seeding smoldering fires and remove hanging debris along both walls. Water trucks will put out hot spots and control dust.

The Tustin Unified School District canceled classes for about a week after the fire and the Orange County Board of Supervisors issued an emergency proclamation.

The school district said Utt Middle School, Hicks Canyon Elementary, Tustin Ranch Elementary and Tustin Connect High School/Education Support Center have been cleared and will resume on-campus instruction when schools return from the holiday recess on Nov. 27.

The hangar and a twin facility at the former base are more than 1,000 feet long and 300 feet wide. They are listed on the national Register of Historic Places.

They have been featured in television and films, including "JAG," "The X-Files," "Austin Powers," "Pearl Harbor" and "Star Trek."

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Emily Valdez KNX News 97.1 FM