Tustin Hangar Fire: State Legislature Passes Resolution Asking for Continued Federal Assistance

July 3, 2024

The California State Legislature is calling for continued federal assistance for Tustin in the aftermath of last year’s hangar fire, where cleanup costs have reached $88 million.

In a resolution that just passed out of the state Assembly, California leaders ask the U.S. Congress and the president to continue to support funding in federal budgets for the remediation of the north hangar fire site. So far, the Navy, which owns the land, has committed $88 million to repay the city for cleanup costs, in line with what has been spent.

“(It’s) a formal request from California to the federal government to meet its obligations in addressing the impacts of the hangar fire,” said state Sen. Josh Newman, who introduced the resolution.

The fire that broke out in November burned for weeks and destroyed the World War II-era hangar. The city dipped into its reserves cleaning up areas where hazardous debris fell and testing homes for contaminants. The Navy has promised since the beginning to pay for those costs and in June pledged in an agreement to reimburse the city up to $88 million.

The Navy has delivered $38 million to the city so far.

The resolution passed in the Assembly on Monday and was approved by the Senate in May. It did not need the governor’s signature.

The resolution is not binding, but it reaffirms the state’s policy is to get Tustin the assistance it needs, Newman said. When the resolution was introduced in March, the Navy had committed only $24 million to the city.

“The cost of this was pretty astounding and so it’s encouraging, especially given Tustin’s constrained resources, that the Navy has stepped up to meet its obligations so far,” Newman said. “We are seeing progress in parallel with that and this resolution moved forward. Those two things together are reason for optimism as it relates to cleaning up the hangar and making sure that all remediation takes place.”

Mayor Austin Lumbard said the point of the resolution was to get federal assistance to residents and other government agencies that have their own costs from the fire.

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“The city is not in a position with the Navy and our agreement with the Navy to reimburse for any of those costs,” Lumbard said. “The hope is that if the federal government were to fund the Navy, that they would have adequate funds not only to complete their work, but also reimburse the other impacts that have been borne by the Tustin community at large.”

No cause of the fire has been released by investigators.

Burnt material from the hangar is still encased in a chemical compound at the site. The Navy expects abatement and removal of debris to begin July 8. Cleanup will take a year to complete.

Lumbard said the city this year will start having likely sensitive discussions on what to do with the 85 acre property that was the former Marine Corps Air Station and the remaining south hangar.

“We don’t want to have a situation where the Navy cleans it up and then we have a gap or delay in having those (discussions) about what the land can and will become,” Lumbard said. “What the community deserves is a plan. My expectation, and what I’ll be driving for, is having those discussions in parallel with the Navy’s cleanup efforts, so that when the Navy leaves we have a plan that we can execute and that the community can accept.”

Copies of the resolution will be sent to the president, congressional leaders, the secretary of defense and the secretary of the Navy.

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