The remnants of a World War II blimp hangar at the former Marine Corps Air Station in Tustin, Calif., which was partially destroyed Nov. 7, 2023, in a fire. 

The remnants of a World War II blimp hangar at the former Marine Corps Air Station in Tustin, Calif., which was partially destroyed Nov. 7, 2023, in a fire.  (Digipulse Productions/City of Irvine)

The Navy has agreed to pay more than $6 million to demolish and remove remnants of a World War II-era blimp hangar in Southern California that was destroyed last month in a fire, service officials said Wednesday.

The fire destroyed one of two historic hangars, and concerns over environmental contamination forced some schools, parks and businesses near the former Marine Corps Air Station in Tustin to close. The base was shut down in 1999.

The Navy said ECC Environmental LCC, an international company with its headquarters in Burlingame, Calif., near San Francisco, was awarded the $6.03 million to handle the cleanup. The company has 14 offices worldwide and has been contracted frequently to build or dismantle military structures.

The Navy will manage the $6 million contract for the site that the military has owned since 1942, the service said. The funds will come primarily through the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission, which is responsible for selecting, closing, and monitoring the later uses of military installations shuttered primarily in the 1990s.

“The Navy cares about the health and safety of residents,” said Gregory Preston, director of the Department of the Navy Base Realignment and Closure Program Management Office. “We continue to work closely with local officials and other agencies to safely and effectively manage the cleanup of the community and the hangar site.”

Local officials in Orange County have been critical of the pace and funding of Navy efforts to clean up the remnants of the hangar and mitigate environmental damage in the area. The Navy initially committed $1 million to local government efforts within days of the fire.

The Navy said the new contract includes selective demolition, air monitoring, stormwater management, site security, and hangar property debris removal.

Planning for the cleanup of the hangar site will begin immediately, the Navy said. However, the actual removal process will not occur right away. State and local environmental agencies have identified asbestos, arsenic, lead, and nickel.

“While we are focused on beginning the physical removal of debris as soon as possible, we cannot determine the actual start date at this time,” Preston said. “Before we can take action, debris removal plans must be reviewed and approved by state and federal regulatory agencies to ensure the safety of both the community and the environment.”

He said the project would include continuous air-quality monitoring until all hangar debris is removed and disposed at safe locations away from the community.

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Gary Warner covers the Pacific Northwest for Stars and Stripes. He’s reported from East Germany, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Britain, France and across the U.S. He has a master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York.

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