Tustin hangar fire: Closed schools to be tested; as fire flares, crews try not to make air worse

TUSTIN, CA - NOVEMBER 07: A stubborn fire burns a hangar at the former Tustin Air Base on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023 in Tustin, CA. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
A fire burns in a military hangar in Tustin earlier this week. The hangar reignited on Saturday. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

All schools in Tustin will be closed Monday as facilities are cleaned of debris possibly contaminated with asbestos from the massive fire that destroyed a former military hangar, according to the Tustin Police Department.

In addition, an environmental consulting firm has been retained, the school district says, to test all schools for contamination stemming from the fire.

Over the weekend the fire reignited at the World War II-era hangar and had not been extinguished as of Sunday evening.

Tustin Police Lt. Ryan Coe told The Times on Sunday afternoon that there was "a hot spot above the north doors, and we anticipated it kicking up. It flared up late in the evening" Saturday.

The flames flared again Sunday evening, as KTLA video showed, with flames seen burning remaining portions of the structure.

He added that some city schools could reopen on Tuesday once testing was completed.

The north hangar was one of two enormous structures on the property, 17 stories high, 1,000 feet long and 300 feet wide, that were used by the military during World War II and later served as sets for the TV show "Star Trek" and the film "Pearl Harbor." It was the largest wooden structure in the world, Coe said.

One of those hangars burned last week, creating a spectacle for drivers passing by.

Read more: Tustin hangar fire: Air base was a major Hollywood player in 'Star Trek,' 'Pearl Harbor' and more

Coe said Sunday that firefighters were in a "strictly defensive posture" because of ongoing danger.

"The remaining structure standing is unstable. We still can't go inside of it to cool it down," he said. "We definitely don't want to do any water drops — a big force that would push more stuff in the air."

Structural and demolition experts began examining the structure Sunday to determine the next steps, Coe added. Additionally, abatement and remediation teams began cleaning affected public rights of way north of the hangar.

After air quality experts discovered asbestos at the site, the Tustin Unified School District closed all campuses starting Thursday.

The city also closed several public parks and canceled a planned Veterans Day celebration over health concerns stemming from possible contamination.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.