Demolition of burned Tustin hangar underway; asbestos levels 'below any level of concern'

Tustin, CA - November 13: A disaster cleanup crew picks up potentially toxic debris around the still-burning WWII-era blimp hangar at the former air base in Tustin Monday, Nov. 13, 2023. Flare-ups and toxic air from last week's destructive hangar fire in Tustin continue to cause trouble for nearby residents. The City of Tustin took to X, formerly Twitter, to confirm that the western wall of the 17-story building reignited Sunday night. Orange County Fire Authority personnel remained on the scene keeping watch of the blaze on Monday morning, with one firefighter telling KTLA 5's Annie Rose Ramos that all they could do was let it burn out. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
The south side of a historic blimp hangar in Tustin that burned down Nov. 7. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The scorched remains of a World War II blimp hangar in Tustin are being razed as air quality officials call nearby asbestos levels "below any level of concern" while continuing to urge neighbors to take safety precautions.

The enormous wooden military relic went up in flames Nov. 7, showering ash and debris — later found to contain asbestos — on nearby residential neighborhoods.

The 17-story hangar smoldered for more than a week, and residents have struggled to get information about the fallout on air quality and airborne contaminants, including when debris will be removed from their properties. While the property is owned by the Navy, a mix of government agencies have been involved in the firefight and aftermath, including the Orange County Fire Authority and the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

“Our biggest frustration overall is that there’s just nobody in charge,” nearby resident Jeff Lawrence told The Times.

Deconstruction of the hangar should be completed in the next day or two, Tustin officials said Saturday. Plans call for extinguishing all remaining hotspots of the fire, using heavy equipment excavators to remove debris and clearing roadways so water trucks can reach all areas of the hanger.

The trucks equipped with nozzles and hoses will be used for fire suppression and dust abatement throughout the process. The hangar doors and their supporting concrete pillars will be stabilized and left in place for the time being.

"Since monitoring began, all particulate matter from smoke and fire data at community sites are well below any level of concern," the city said in a statement. "Asbestos sampling data received to date are also well below any levels of concern."

Most schools in the area have been cleared for on-campus instruction attendance, but a few are still being inspected by asbestos consultants, the Tustin Unified School District said on its website Sunday.

Most public parks are open, but Centennial Park and Veterans Sports Park remain closed until further notice, parks officials said.

The Orange County Healthcare Agency recommends people who believe their neighborhood has been affected by fire debris take such precautions as keeping doors and windows closed and not running air conditioning systems that draw in outside air. Avoid activities that will displace debris related to the fire, such as sweeping, leaf blowing, mowing and gardening.

Blocks of the city where bulk debris from the fire has been collected are shown a map on the city website.

Times staff writer Hannah Fry contributed to this report

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.