(KTLA) — A hangar at a historic air base in Orange County, California, went up in flames early Tuesday morning.
According to the Orange County Fire Authority, the fire broke out around 1 a.m. at the Marine Corps Air Station in Tustin. The north hangar, also known as Hangar 1, was completely engulfed in flames when crews first arrived.
Firefighters immediately went into defensive mode to prevent the flames from spreading to nearby structures, and crews were seen battling the blaze from the ground and by air.
As of 8:30 a.m., the fire had consumed about half of the iconic wood hangar. It is expected to burn for several days before finally going out, officials said.
“There’s literally nothing we can do about it at this point,” Orange County Fire Authority Chief Brian Fennessy said. “We can’t get close enough to that building without concern for it collapsing on our firefighters.”
The twin blimp hangars – which measure 17 stories tall, 1,000 feet long and 300 feet wide – have been at Warner Avenue in Tustin since World War II and have been home to a fleet of blimps and eventually helicopters. The hangars were decommissioned in 1999.
They are two of the world’s largest freestanding wooden structures and both are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Fennessy said the property is still owned by the U.S. Navy and the investigation will eventually be turned over to the military.
“It’s a huge landmark and to see them disappearing like this is kind of shocking,” one resident, James, told KTLA 5’s Carlos Herrera.
When he saw the fire, James says he quickly texted his friend who dropped what he was doing to see the blaze himself.
“I saw the text and I drove out immediately,” he said. “I’m dying to know what’s going on.”
Another man, a native of Tustin, saw the flames from his dormitory at the University of California, Irvine, and rushed to the scene.
“To have [the hangar] burn down is a tragedy,” Connor Ruffallo said. “It’s a piece of history that we are losing today.”
The hangars have been featured in TV shows and were even the site of a half marathon, the Tustin Hangar 5K.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation. No injuries have been reported.