Asbestos Alert in Orange County: Ensuring Safety Amidst Tustin’s Hangar Fire Aftermath

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Orange County Asbestos Alert: Ensuring Safety Amidst Tustin'S Hangar Fire Aftermath

On Tuesday, November 7, 2023, firefighters took out the flames engulfing the massive north blimp hangar at the former Marine Corps Air Station Tustin in Tustin, CA. In the aftermath of the devastating fire, a new threat emerges. Hidden within the smoky haze is the presence of asbestos, a dangerous substance known for its harmful effects on health. Concern spreads throughout the county as the potential risks to respiratory health become apparent, and our empathy for those impacted only grows stronger. With links to severe health conditions, the exposure to asbestos dust poses a grave and ongoing danger. Despite the turmoil, Orange County stands united, showing unwavering determination to protect its citizens and navigate through this disaster together.

Closure of Parks and Schools

Orange County officials undertook swift action to protect public health. Precautionary measures, including the closure of all Tustin schools and many city parks, were immediately implemented. This decision, while understandably disruptive, was driven by the undoubted necessity of minimizing exposure to airborne particulate matter laced with asbestos.

The closure of these public spaces served to shield vulnerable populations, particularly children, from potential health risks. In schools across Tustin and neighboring areas, classrooms fell silent as local authorities grappled with the invisible yet insidious threat of asbestos exposure. The return to normalcy hinges upon comprehensive testing and clearance, underscoring the gravity of the situation, and further emphasizing the necessity of testing residential properties for asbestos contamination.

Declaration of Emergency in Tustin

Tustin Oc Fire Authority
Source: oc fire authority

As the magnitude of the situation steadily unfolded, a State of Emergency was promptly declared in Tustin, marking the severity of the asbestos threat. The city of Tustin declared a local state of emergency, and the Orange County Board of Supervisors declared a county-wide state of emergency Thursday afternoon due to the fire. Neighboring cities such as Santa Ana and Orange conveyed health warnings to their residents, who were still seeing ash carried their way by the west-blowing winds.

This declaration, a measure indicative of the seriousness of the situation, has facilitated the mobilization of resources and assistance on a state level.  This aimed to bolster the local response capacity, ensure the continuity of critical public services, and expedite the process of recovery and rehabilitation in the aftermath of the hangar fire. 

Local Authorities’ Efforts in Handling the Situation

According to the county announcement, tests conducted on air and ash samples revealed the presence of asbestos, as well as heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, and nickel.

“We just received official notice from the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) that its testing of the north hangar fire debris and ash has identified the presence of asbestos,” said Tustin Mayor Austin Lumbard in a press release.

The city’s emergency declaration emphasized the potential airborne asbestos and the inherent danger it poses to the safety of individuals and property. It stressed the urgency for collaborative efforts at the local, state, and federal levels to mitigate these hazardous conditions effectively.

Harmful Effects of Asbestos on Health

Asbestos Health Effects

Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral once hailed for its heat resistance and insulating properties, has been identified as a silent yet lethal health risk. Its fibers, fine and easily inhaled, can lead to a host of serious health complications.

  1. Asbestosis: This condition involves long-term inflammation and scarring of the lungs, resulting in shortness of breath and a dry, crackling sound while inhaling.
  2. Lung cancer: The presence of asbestos fibers increases the risk of developing lung cancer, especially for individuals with prolonged exposure.
  3. Mesothelioma: This rare and aggressive form of cancer affects the lining of the lungs and abdomen.
  4. Pleural thickening: Asbestos exposure can lead to widespread scarring that thickens the pleura, restricting lung expansion and causing breathlessness and chest discomfort.

The detrimental health effects of asbestos underscore the necessity of immediate action to safeguard public health.

Practical Advice on Asbestos Testing Methods

With the identified presence of asbestos in Tustin, a pressing necessity arises for residents to test their homes, ensuring the ongoing safety of their living environments. Testing homes for asbestos is not merely a cautionary measure; it is a critical step to secure the health and safety of families and individuals.

Professional services are available, proficient in identifying and managing asbestos-related risks. These services employ experienced personnel who understand the intricacies of handling asbestos and use rigorous testing methods to detect its presence. Sampling usually involves visual inspections, bulk sampling, where a small piece of material is removed for lab testing, and air monitoring to check for airborne fibers. If asbestos is found, remediation options can be explored to remove or encapsulate the hazardous material safely.

Steps to Take if Asbestos Is Found

Asbestos Abatement

If asbestos has been detected in your home, it’s crucial to take appropriate measures to safeguard your health and well-being. Here are the steps to undertake:

  1. Avoid Disturbances: Cease any activity that can disturb asbestos-containing materials and increase airborne asbestos levels. This includes drilling, sawing, scraping, or sanding.
  2. Limit Access: Restrict access to the area where asbestos has been found. By doing so, you prevent the spread of asbestos fibers to other parts of your home.
  3. Contact a Professional: Reach out to certified asbestos abatement professionals. These experts have the necessary skills, equipment, and training to handle and remove asbestos materials safely.
  4. Develop an Abatement Plan: With professional assistance, formulate a comprehensive abatement plan. This plan should detail the methods for safely removing or sealing the asbestos, the steps to control asbestos dust, and the protective measures for workers.
  5. Asbestos Removal or Encapsulation: Depending on the condition of the asbestos material and its location, removal or encapsulation (sealing the asbestos material) is carried out by abatement professionals.
  6. Post-Abatement Inspection: After the completion of the removal or encapsulation process, a post-abatement inspection is performed. This involves visual examination and air sampling to ensure that no asbestos fibers remain.
  7. Ongoing Monitoring: Regular monitoring of the area should be carried out after the abatement process, especially if encapsulation was chosen as the method for dealing with the asbestos.

Remember, when dealing with asbestos, safety should always be the top priority. Even minor disturbances can release asbestos fibers into the air, putting you and your family at risk.

Expert Opinions and Advice From Health Officials

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) offers guidance on handling materials that may contain asbestos and recommends that a certified laboratory carry out testing.

It is crucial to note that DIY testing for asbestos is not advisable due to the high risk of disturbance and release of asbestos fibers into the air. Residents are urged to seek professional assistance ensuring thorough and safe testing procedures are followed.


In the face of an invisible enemy, vigilance and proactive measures can create a resilient defense, safeguarding the health of our community. Now is the time to act, turning awareness into action and testing our homes for asbestos.

As the final protective measure in our fight against asbestos, it is crucial to avail of the services offered by reliable asbestos testing experts. Guaranteed Property and Mold Inspection, a trusted provider in this field, offers comprehensive asbestos testing, ensuring your home’s safety and your peace of mind. Our team uses state-of-the-art technology to accurately identify any presence of asbestos, allowing you to take prompt action.

If you suspect your home might be at risk, don’t hesitate. Take proactive steps toward a safer living environment today by reaching out to GPInspect or call (949) 239-3727 to schedule an appointment.

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Joseph Gutierrez

Mr. Gutierrez is a highly certified Environmental Hygienist and Property Inspector. He is well known and respected for his knowledge of the industry, work ethics, and superb customer service.