The quiet city of Tustin, located about 35 miles southeast of Los Angeles, was rocked by a devastating fire in the early hours of Tuesday. The blaze consumed a massive World War II-era wooden hangar, a significant historical landmark that had stood tall for decades. T
his colossal structure was one of the last remaining relics of a bygone era, a testament to the military history of Southern California. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the details of this tragic incident and the rich history behind the now-destroyed hangar.
A Historic Icon Goes Up in Flames
At around 1 a.m. on that fateful Tuesday, authorities received reports of a raging inferno tearing through the massive wooden hangar. The Orange County Fire Authority, tasked with battling the blaze, faced a daunting challenge.
The fire had become so dynamic and fierce that allowing the structure to collapse was deemed the only viable option. This would enable ground crews to move in safely and work aggressively to extinguish the flames. The resulting scene was nothing short of devastating, with flames racing along the curved roof and the structure disintegrating in sections. A colossal plume of dark smoke billowed into the sky, visible for miles around.
Thankfully, despite the scale of the fire, there were no reported injuries. The fire smoldered into the evening, leaving behind charred remnants of the historic hangar.
A Glimpse into the Past
The now-destroyed hangar was one of two constructed in 1942 for the U.S. Navy in Tustin. At that time, the U.S. Navy was utilizing lighter-than-air ships for patrol and antisubmarine defense. These hangars were a testament to the grandeur and strategic significance of military airships during World War II.
The structures stood as giants in the landscape, boasting 17 stories in height, over 1,000 feet in length, and 300 feet in width. These dimensions firmly secured their place among the largest wooden structures ever built.
The Navy’s need for these hangars waned in the years that followed, and the installation was eventually transitioned into a Marine Corps air station in the 1950s. However, this too met its end, as the station closed in 1999.
A Hub for Hollywood Productions
These iconic hangars weren’t merely a relic of the past. Over the years, they found a new purpose as backdrops for countless Hollywood productions. Popular TV shows like “JAG,” “The X Files,” and films such as “Pearl Harbor” used the hangars as striking locations for their stories. Additionally, the structures served as the backdrop for numerous commercials.
In recognition of their historical and engineering significance, the American Society of Civil Engineers listed the site as one of the historic civil engineering landmarks of the 20th century in 1993.
A Sad Day for Tustin and Orange County
The destruction of the north hangar is undoubtedly a somber event for the city of Tustin and the entire Orange County community. It marks the end of an era, erasing a tangible link to a significant period in our nation’s history.
Fire Chief Brian Fennessy expressed his sorrow but also noted the importance of the situation. Thankfully, no injuries were reported, and firefighters could focus on extinguishing the blaze without undue risk. However, the battle against the flames would continue for several days.
The loss of the World War II-era wooden hangar in Tustin, California, is a poignant reminder of the impermanence of historical landmarks. As the investigation into the cause of the fire unfolds, the memory of this colossal structure and its role in our history will continue to live on in the minds and hearts of those who witnessed its grandeur. It’s a testament to the past and a call to preserve and protect the historical treasures that remain.