Month after Tustin hangar fire, residents and city leaders frustrated with lack of transparency

David González Image
Thursday, December 7, 2023
Tustin hangar fire: Residents frustrated with lack of transparency
City officials say 60% of homes have been cleared, but residents say they're frustrated about having to deal with the aftermath. Meanwhile, Tustin's mayor says the city has yet to receive clear health guidance.

TUSTIN, Calif. (KABC) -- It's been a month since a historic World War II air hangar in Tustin caught fire, and Orange County Fire Authority called it an unprecedented incident in the county.

The fire began on Nov. 7 and it was officially extinguished on Dec. 1. Demolition work began Tuesday, but a lot of questions remain on the health and safety of people who live in the area.

"The city has yet to receive clear and concise and direct health guidance and I hear you," said Tustin Mayor Austin Lumbard during a community meeting to address the concerns of residents. "We are your neighbors. We have kids in those schools, and we do not have clear answers from our health professionals."

Scott Wiedensohler, the division chief for the city of Tustin, said 60% of homes have been cleared.

However, residents are frustrated about having to deal with the aftermath. Some of them said toxic dust is still caked on homes, patios and windows.

"You guys are saying you're doing the cleanup on the outside, but what about the insides of everybody's homes? Not everybody has the funds available to them to actually be able to deal with all the consequences from this fire in the inside of their house," said resident Sean Storm during a recent meeting.

"We have been asking for a detailed testing plan for weeks," said resident Susan Keefe. "Not just the air quality because as my neighbors have pointed out, it's just not about the air quality. It's about soil. It's about wipes on surfaces."

Wiedensohler said crews are working to secure the hangar doors. They will be lowered and laid down starting on Thursday.

Wiedensoheler said the U.S. Navy is responsible for removing debris from the site but has yet to explain how it plans to address it.

"It is the time for the Navy to step up," said Lumbard. "It is time for the state to step up. It is the time for the environmental agencies to do what they are empowered and authorized to do; is to give health guidance."

The Navy committed $1 million in federal funds to start cleaning up but the city said they have not received that money.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.