After 24 days, officials declare Tustin hangar fire ‘fully extinguished’

Officials in Orange County declared Friday that the Tustin hangar fire is “fully extinguished” after 24 days, calling the blaze “one of the most challenging structure fires in the county’s history.”

“I am pleased to inform the public that the final hotspot at the Navy Hangar Fire has been extinguished,” Steve Dohman, Orange County’s All-Hazards Incident Management Team incident commander, said in a statement. “With all hotspots now declared out, the work to safely lower the hangar doors can begin, and the Navy can start removing debris from its site.”

The cause of the fire, which began in the early morning hours of Nov. 7 at the now-defunct Marine Corps Air Station in Tustin, remains under investigation.

An 80-year-old relic of Orange County’s military history, the massive 17-story wooden hangar became an environmental nightmare as the fire reignited several times, forcing the closure of nearby schools and shuttering residents inside their homes as the blaze released asbestos, lead and other toxins into the air.

Fire officials at one point determined the safest option was to allow the blaze to burn itself out, afraid that dropping thousands of gallons of water onto the structure would farther spread the debris and toxic particles.

As of Friday, officials estimated that cleanup of nearby schools, parks, open space and public rights of way was 90% complete and that more than 50% of residential properties have been inspected with 35% cleared.

Local officials advised residents who are concerned about debris to contact a certified asbestos contractor and their homeowners insurance company.

“The residents and businesses in the area who have been impacted by this fire now need the full accountability of the Navy and the support of the Governor’s Office and FEMA to help our City and our community financially recover,” Tustin Mayor Austin Lumbard said in a statement.

The north hangar was one of two massive wooden structures used by the military during World War II and later served as sets for the TV show “Star Trek” and the film “Pearl Harbor.” The hangars once housed military helicopters and blimps armed with machine guns and bombs.