An early morning three-alarm fire caused major portions of the historic North Blimp Hangar in Tustin to collapse on Tuesday, creating road closures and sending smoke into Irvine.
Reported at 12:53 a.m. Tuesday, the Orange County Fire Authority responded to a three alarm fire reported near the historic North Blimp Hangar at former Marine Corps Air Station Tustin. Once on scene, OCFA determined that fire created hazardous conditions for OCFA personnel.
OCFA Fire Chief Brian Fennessy added that while no injuries were reported, it was a sad day for Orange County. Fennessy spoke at a press conference on Tuesday and said at the height of the incident OFCA had over 70 firefighters, 11 engines, and three helicopters on scene.
Fennessy explained OCFA encountered multiple hazards presented by the fire and were unable to prevent the historic wodden structure from burning.
“Due to the dynamic nature of the fire and the hazards presented in the hangar, we did not conduct interior fire operations,” he said. “We determined that there were no lives at risk inside and that the fire was so well established, we would let the fire burn and try to stop it where we could.”
At 7:55 a.m., the City of Irvine shared a post on X with a photo showing a huge portion of the wooden structure missing. Dark smoke can also be seen emanating from the structure.
Early this morning, the north blimp hangar at the former Marine Corps Air Station Tustin caught fire. The Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) is working hard to extinguish the fire. We anticipate helicopter activity and smoke over Irvine until the fire is out. pic.twitter.com/1RFc2fhixM
— Irvine Police Department (@IrvinePolice) November 7, 2023
Fennessy added that he expected the fire to continue to smolder for several hours or days.
“It’s a sad day for the city of Tustin and all of Orange County, but we are fortunate that no injuries have been reported – we are in a position to extinguish the blaze without putting firefighters at risk.
The hangar continues to burn with collapse of sections at a time. Because of extremely dangerous conditions, firefighters will monitor to ensure the fire remains contained. Firefighters will remain on scene and in the area throughout the day. Smoke will be seen – if you >>> pic.twitter.com/dFEzxY1nmE
— OCFA PIO (@OCFireAuthority) November 7, 2023
Fennessy also anticipates handing the incident over to the Navy.
“It’s a Navy facility. We are in contact with the Navy, and at some point we expect that we will be turning this incident over to the Navy, once it gets to a point where it’s settled down,” he said.
Originally built in 1942, the historic blimp hangars at the former Marine Corps Air Station Tustin are recognized as two of the tallest wooden structures ever built – standing 17 stories in height, 1,000 feet in length and 300 feet wide.
In 1993, according to the City of Tustin’s website, the American Society of Civil Engineers added the North and South hangars to the list of Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks of the 20th century.
The cause of the fire is still currently under investigation.
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