Massive Fire Destroys Historic Blimp Hanger in Orange County

Tustin hangar burns
Flames shoot from the historic hangar in Tustin. Courtesy OnScene.TV

A massive fire destroyed a historic World War II-era blimp hangar at the former Tustin Air Base on Tuesday.

The cause of the blaze was not immediately known, which ignited early Tuesday morning at one of two giant hangars built in 1942 and once housed blimps used in World War II.

The danger posed by the fire caused firefighters to allow the fire to burn out.

“Due to the dynamic nature of the fire, and the imminent danger of collapse, we have determined the most operationally sound method is to allow the structure to collapse, at which point ground crews can move in closer, and aggressively work to extinguish the fire,” the Orange County Fire Authority said in a statement around daybreak.

The OCFA reported Tuesday evening that the hangar was still on fire, but the flames were less threatening. Several firefighters were expected to remain at the scene overnight to ensure full containment, along with no additional random flare-ups.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the hangars stand 17 stories high, are over 1,000 feet long and 300 feet wide — and are two of the largest wooden structures ever built, according to the website Tustin Hangars.

Crews responded after 1:30 a.m. to the hangar at Valencia Avenue and Armstrong Road, where they found massive flames bursting through the roof, according to the OCFA.

Pieces of the roof were seen slowly falling to the ground as the fire continued to burn. At one point early Tuesday morning, the fire authority called in a helicopter to help put out the blaze. Drivers were asked to avoid the area, and arson investigators were sent to the scene to determine the cause of the fire, which remains unknown.

Police remained at the scene around the clock for security and assistance with monitoring embers, Tustin Police Department Lt. Ryan Coe said.

The historic hangars have been featured in television and films, including  “JAG, ” “The X-Files,” “Austin Powers,”  “Pearl Harbor ” and “Star Trek.”

Anyone with information that might be helpful to investigators was asked to call 714-573-3225. Orange County Crime Stoppers will accept anonymous tips at (855) TIP-OCCS.