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Destruction of the Tustin Hangar

Kevin Cadra
Firemen attempt to put out the Tustin Hangar fire as it slowly consumes the entire structure.

Sometimes, you never truly realize how valuable something is until it is lost. Whether that is a set of keys, a person, or even a memory, everyone has items in their life that they would not dream of losing. On Tuesday, November 2nd, 2023, a fire broke out in Tustin, California. Burning down an important piece of American History. The historical blimp hangar was built in 1942 to hold blimps that patrolled the U.S. coastlines during World War II. Due to its significant role during WWII, this hangar was designated a national landmark in 1975, making the destruction of it devastating to many. 

During the fire, some nearby businesses closed while others remained open. Lillian, a nail technician from Dylan Blue Nail Spa, which is located in a shopping plaza across the street from the hangar, says, “We were still open, but business was slow.” Evan, an employee of a Sweetgreen restaurant located adjacent to Dylan Blue Nail Spa, remembers that “The restaurant was busier because people wanted to check the fire out. There were also a few reporters coming in to see the view of the hangar.” This event seems to have been intriguing to Tustin residents who had no idea how the fire began, though that question has yet to be answered.

This hangar was one of two, both completely built out of wood, allowing it to easily catch fire. Although wood can easily catch fire, it takes high ignition temperatures to do so. There are many causes of a fire such as electrical faults, chemical fires, and more. Most causes were not possible in this situation. As a result of this, there are many theories as to what caused the fire. Most commonly it could have been arson. 

The hangars have not been in use since 1999. Therefore, the electricity and water have not been on since either, so the possibility of an electrical fire is out of the equation. Lastly, the fire started at 1 a.m. PST, which also indicates that the California heat was most likely not a cause. This is why the theory that the developers had something to do with the start of the fire is very popular. Bentley Marton (11) states, “I find this very mysterious and interesting.” 

80-year-old asbestos was released into the air all around the area of Tustin and even Irvine. Schools were closed, animals in the area were presumably affected, and people were cautious to leave their homes. Asbestos is a hazardous substance that increases the risk of developing lung cancer and mesothelioma. Some people even want compensation for being exposed to it. It is a serious issue and it is detrimental that the cause of the fire is uncovered. Although officials claimed that allowing the fire to burn would not be toxic or life-threatening, this aftermath has caused Tustin communities concern for themselves and the health of their families. 

Although the actual cause of the fire remains unknown, the Sweetgreen employee recalls seeing “The fire [start] as a strip of flames on the roof. They were trying to take care of it, but it was crazy.” Almost every day since the beginning of the fire, it continued to reignite. Since falling debris caused concerns about the safety of the firefighters, the hangar was allowed to burn until it eventually collapsed, which proved to have dire consequences.

This catastrophic event broke the hearts of hundreds of Tustin residents who considered the hangar a historical part of their home city. Even some individuals who do not live in Tustin drove by the hangars and wondered what they were used for. As a lasting historical site from World War II, it is devastating that this structure has been destroyed. However, some are unaware of the hangar’s past and perceive it as a building that occupied an immense amount of land rather than a historical period. 

The Tustin Hangars were built in 1942 and used by the Navy and Marine for over 50 years. They were in operation during World War II and housed blimps and aircraft that played a critical role. According to CBS Los Angeles, blimps were used to “…patrol the southern California coastline for enemy submarines during WWII” (CBS). Before the fire, Goodyear blimps could be seen going in and out of the hangars, making the giant blimps seem petite in comparison to the enormous structures. Additionally, several films, including “The X-Files,” “Pearl Harbor,” and “Star Trek,” were filmed at the hangars’ site. 

Tustin has been a significant city throughout U.S. history. It has gone through many different eras and was once lived on by Native Americans. Tustin is now an upcoming city in California. Many new homes and shopping malls have been recently built, all around the hangars. This makes the land the hangars are built on very valuable to developers. Each hangar covers seven acres of land where new homes and schools could potentially be built. 

Kevin Cadra, a Tustin local, states, “I have been inside that hangar for Tustin city planning events about the future of the hangar and it’s a shame that those proposed plans never happened. I just hope that they can still safely keep the other hangar and prevent the same tragic ending.” These incredible landmarks have not only been beloved structures for Tustin locals but have also made significant impacts on U.S. history and the world.

While this event has left a hole in the heart of Tustin, it is crucial to remember what the Tustin Hangar stood for and how it served the country. Equally as important is to give thanks to those who worked in the hangars and remember the historical significance of the hangars. 

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About the Contributors
Milla Jans, Editor
Milla is a sophomore at Yorba Linda High School and is currently an editor for The Wrangler. In the upcoming years she will be working towards her goal of writing and publishing a book. Milla’s other aspirations in life include obtaining a law degree and opening a business. In her spare time she reads, listens to music, writes poetry, and practices her self-taught drawing skills. She hopes to adopt a cat one day and travel to other countries including Iceland, Poland, and Quebec to learn more about their cultures. Milla plans on making her remaining years at YLHS meaningful and fun and is excited for her second year at The Wrangler.
Ayesha Ghandhi, Photojournalist
Ayesha Ghandhi is a senior at Yorba Linda High School. She is a member of the varsity Lacrosse team. In her free time, she enjoys riding her horse, playing with her dogs, listening to music, cooking, shopping, watching TV, and spending time with her friends and family. Her interests include animals, fashion, and cars. In the future Ayesha hopes to pursue a career in law and hopes to be an animal rights activist. She is very excited to be a part of the YLHS' The Wrangler and to experience being a photojournalist.

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    Kris EklofJan 16, 2024 at 2:25 PM

    I have lived just on the outside of the hangers for over 40 years. Woke up every single day to see them almost first thing as I would go outside or head to school. It is such a shame to watch it burn down like it did. Almost like a part of myself and my identity went along with it