Firefighters used water-dropping helicopters to try to quell a fire at one of two enormous blimp hangars in Tustin, California, but the historic structure couldn’t be saved. The massive building, 1,000 feet long, almost 200 feet tall and 300 feet wide, caught fire overnight and continued to burn through the day. Firefighters on the ground couldn’t get close enough to have much effect on the fire as the all-wood structure progressively collapsed. By nightfall, most of the structure had been consumed. “We can’t get close enough to that building without concerns of it collapsing on our firefighters,” Orange County Fire Chief Brian Fennessy told The New York Times. “Our use of aircraft on a structure like this, that’s extraordinary.”
The two hangars were built at what was Marine Corps Air Station Dustin in 1942. They were the largest wood buildings built in the 20th century, according to local historians. The base was built about 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles to house blimps used to spot Japanese submarines off the West Coast. The base remained operational until 1999 and the hangars were designated as national landmarks in 1975. The City of Dustin had been in discussion with the Navy, which still owns the buildings, about their long-term preservation.