published : 2023-11-10

Massive Blaze at California's WWII-Era Blimp Hangar Closes Parks, Schools Due to Asbestos

Tustin School District Urges Residents to Avoid Lingering Smoke from Fire

Aerial view of the historical WWII-era blimp hangar in Tustin, California taken with a DJI Phantom 4 Pro.

People living in a Southern California city were urged to stay inside while parks and schools were closed after officials found asbestos in the charred debris of a historical World War II-era blimp hangar.

The city of Tustin closed nine parks near the fire location to reduce residents' exposure to ash and canceled a Veterans Day event for this weekend.

The Tustin Unified School District closed all school campuses on Thursday, apologizing for the timing of the news.

There was no mention of what would happen on Friday, but a post on the district website reads, '[W]e will communicate with you throughout the weekend regarding important updates.'

The blaze broke out early Tuesday at the massive wooden hangar, which was one of two built in 1942 by the U.S. Navy to house military blimps. At the time, the Navy often used airships for patrol and antisubmarine defense.

Smoke can be seen billowing from the World War II-era hangar in Tustin, California.

Children playing in one of the closed parks near the fire location in Tustin, California taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.

Southern California air-quality regulators will continue to analyze samples from areas around the hangar for toxic gases and metals, the city said in a statement.

'Asbestosis is a chronic lung condition that is caused by prolonged exposure to high concentrations of asbestos fibers in the air,' the American Lung Association says on its website.

'Though asbestosis is believed to be mostly an occupational disease, there are reports of secondhand exposure to asbestos-containing dust.'

The city of Tustin is about 35 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

Officials investigate the rubble of the historical Tustin Air Base hangar on Nov. 8, 2023, the day after a fire destroyed the World War II-era structure.

Police officers stand outside the destroyed historical Tustin Air Base blimp hangar on Nov. 8, 2023.

Firefighters extinguishing the blaze at the north hangar of Tustin Air Base in Tustin, California taken with a Nikon D850.

The city's mayor is urging the Navy to expedite tearing down the structure's remains to clean up the site.

"I know the community doesn't want to look at a half-burned remnant of what was the hangar, and we owe it to the community to take it down as safely and quickly as possible. It needs to be cleaned up quickly for health reasons and general optics," Mayor Austin Lumbar said, per the outlet.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.