Massive fire destroys iconic WWII-era airship hangar in California

A massive fire swept through a historic airship hangar at a former air base in Southern California, where several TV shows and movies were filmed, including “Pearl Harbor” and “Star Trek.”

The fire broke out around 1 a.m. Tuesday at the Marine Corps Air Station in Tustin, according to the Orange County Fire Authority, which released dramatic video of the giant monument going up in flames.

No injuries were immediately reported.

Parts of the roof collapsed to the ground as dozens of firefighters took up positions outside the normally empty hangar, NBC Los Angeles reported.

The structure, also known as Hangar 1, was still burning hours later.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

“It’s definitely not a normal fire, but today because of the complex fire operation, our incident commanders decided that they are going to use helicopters together with the truck companies,” said fire captain Thanh Nguyen, according to KTLA.

Chinook helicopters are commonly used to fight forest fires.

A fire broke out in a historic airship hangar at a former air base in Orange County, California.OCFA PIO Firefighters were trying to put out the fire in Hangar 1.OCFA PIO

“Our firefighters are located outside [the hangar] and are placing their units in the most advantageous locations for water to enter the structure. So if the building collapses, they won’t be in the line of fire,” he added.

The fire was also at risk of spreading to a second airship hangar.

The twin hangars, which measure 17 stories high, more than 1,000 feet long and about 300 feet wide, are two of the largest free-standing wooden structures in the world and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, according to KTLA .

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Part of the monument’s roof collapsed in the fire. Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

They have been on Warner Avenue since World War II and were the home port for a dozen airships used to patrol submarines and then helicopters before being decommissioned in 1999.

Several blockbuster movies and notable television shows have been filmed in the hangars, including “Pearl Harbor, “Star Trek,” “JAG” and “The X Files,” NBC LA reported.

In addition, the Tustin Hangar 5K race has been held there.

“It’s a sad day for the city of Tustin, for all of Orange County,” Orange County Fire Chief Brian Fennessy told reporters.

Several movies and television shows were filmed in the hangar, including “Star Trek” and “Pearl Harbor.” Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Seventy firefighters on 11 engines and five fire trucks responded, along with helicopters, the LA Times reported.

“That’s unheard of,” Fennessy said of the use of air assets. “But we thought we’d give him everything we could in case we could stop him halfway.”

Debbie Baker, 70, woke up around 1:30 a.m. to the sound of helicopters flying over her nearby home.

Authorities did not immediately report injuries.AP

“It’s so sad. For years those hangars welcomed us home. It’s what made this community special,” he told the newspaper as his voice cracked with emotion.

The hangars, which were built by the Army in 1942 as part of the now-defunct Tustin Naval Air Station, were constructed primarily of Oregon Douglas fir, according to the LA Times.

People take pictures with cell phones as a historic airship hangar burns in Tustin, California, on Tuesday.AP

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Metallic salts were used in wood as a fire retardant.

Tustin Mayor Austin Lumbard said many residents had personal connections to the hangars from working at the base.

“This is not the end of what we call the north hangar that was envisioned,” Lumbard told the LA Times. “It is not the dignified treatment he deserves.”

A historic airship hangar burns in Tustin, California, on Tuesday, November 7, 2023.AP

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