The fire prompted a three-alarm response from fire crews. Both Tustin and the Orange County Fire Authority stated that the only viable approach to combat the fire was to allow the structure to collapse.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) found asbestos, lead, arsenic and nickel in air and ash samples. Authorities advise residents to exercise caution during the cleanup to minimize exposure to these toxic chemicals. Crews also collected samples in nearby neighborhoods to assess the potential presence of airborne toxins such as benzene.
“Everyone should be aware of the recommended precautions to reduce the health effects of smoke and ash from building fires,” said County Health Officer and OC Health Care Agency’s Director of Public Health Services Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong. “Extra measures may be needed for those with pre-existing medical conditions like heart or lung disease, those with disabilities, older adults, children and those who may be working outdoors.”
Teams took three bulk samples from debris at Veterans Sports Park in Tustin. Laboratory testing revealed asbestos in the samples, with percentages of 25%, 27% and 17%.
Burning or damaging building materials can release airborne asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral commonly used in construction before 1960, which poses an inhalation risk.
“The city has contracted with certified asbestos contractors to further assess and remediate hazards to the public,” the City of Tustin announced on Thursday evening. “The contractor will provide a report to the city and more information will be shared with the community once complete.”
The base was established in 1942 as the Santa Ana Naval Air Station. It housed blimps primarily used for patrolling America’s coastline to detect enemy submarines, according to the Tustin Area Historical Society.