Tustin public schools closed after asbestos detected in historic hangar fire debris

Friday, November 10, 2023
Tustin schools close amid asbestos threat from hangar fire
Orange County has declared a local emergency as it deals with the aftermath of a massive hangar fire in Tustin where asbestos was detected in ash.

TUSTIN, Calif. (KABC) -- Public schools and parks in the city of Tustin are closed after air quality experts detected asbestos near the historic air hangar that burned down earlier this week.

Asbestos was found in samples of debris and ash that were collected in "public areas" near the hangar, which could pose a potential health risk, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD).

"Samples of debris and ash were collected in public areas near the hangar, and results of laboratory testing show the presence of asbestos," the agency said. "The public is strongly encouraged to follow precautions outlined by the local public health agency when coming in contact with any debris or ash."

Because of the potential health risks, the Tustin Unified School District decided to close all schools Thursday.

In a message to families, Superintendent Mark Johnson said all district preschools and daycares would also be closed.

Additionally, the Orange County Board of Supervisors declared a countywide state of emergency at its meeting Thursday afternoon.

Such declarations typically help government agencies cut through red tape in responding to disasters and obtaining assistance from state and federal agencies.

Supervisor Katrina Foley said she and Supervisor Vicente Sarmiento sent a letter to the Department of Navy - which owns the hangar property - seeking assistance with issues including soil testing, air quality surveillance and mitigation. The supervisors are also in touch with the county's congressional delegation.

A hotline has been established for residents who need help with removal of ash from their property: (714)-628-7085.

A website has also been established for residents impacted by the debris and smoke.

A massive fire ripped through a historic hangar at a former air base in Orange County Tuesday morning, prompting a large response from fire crews.

In addition, the city closed nearly a dozen parks and said additional facilities may also be closed, pending more information from the AQMD and the Orange County Health Care Agency. Meanwhile, a Veterans Day car show that was scheduled for this weekend has been canceled.

Health experts recommend that residents in the area stay indoors with windows and doors closed. Those who have been exposed to the ash or dust from the fire should take the following precautions:

- Wash off immediately.

- Wash off pets and children's toys.

- Run your central air conditioner.

- If you must go outside, use a N95 or P100 respirator.

Those at greatest risk of illness are children, pregnant women, elderly individuals or people with respirator or heart illness.

Symptoms of asbestos exposure include chest pain, chest tightness, shortness of breath and severe fatigue.

The city is now waiting on final reports which may confirm other toxic gases and metals in the ash.

The cause of Tuesday's fire is still not known.