TUSTIN, Calif. (KABC) -- 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.
The three-alarm fire was reported around 1 a.m. at the north hangar in Tustin, near Valencia Avenue and Armstrong Road, according to the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA).
The fire was so large, firefighters used a helicopter to try to put out the flames that consumed the structure standing 17 stories high. Crews also attacked from the ground.
"It's sad. We're losing a piece of history," said Dwight Hanson, a Marine who was once stationed at the base in the '80s.
Fire officials said one of the challenges they faced was the lack of water on the property. Crews were using long hose to pump in water from hydrants on nearby streets.
OCFA Captain Thanh Nguyen could not say if there was anything inside the hangar.
Hours after the fire started, officials said crews pulled back from the fight due to the "imminent danger of collapse." The OCFA said the they would let the structure safely collapse before crews moved in to extinguish any leftover embers or flames.
The firefight woke up nearby residents, some leaving their home to see the blaze.
"I woke up and heard all these helicopters flying over and I looked out and saw the smoke and the flames," said Steve Kinney. "These things have been here since as long as I've been around and it's hard to believe that this one's probably going away."
"To lose these, we'll never see anything like this again."
The hangar is one of the largest wooden structures ever built, and it is one of two air hangars built in 1942 at the former Marine Corps Air Station Tustin. The historic landmark has been featured in several shows and films, including "Pearl Harbor," "Star Trek" and "Austin Powers."
For many residents who live in the area, these hangars have been a part of the landscape for as long as they've been alive.
"It's huge. You know, you just go by something every day, you expect to see it there, especially so prominent as this," said Hanson.
It's owned by the county of Orange, but with talk about potential future development in the area, its future is uncertain.
Meanwhile, the cause of the fire remains under investigation.