A beloved rainbow-painted lifeguard hut on Long Beach, California, has burned down to the ground. The city’s gay Mayor suspects it could be a hate-fueled arson attack.
The hut was painted in rainbow colors to mark Pride Month last year. Firefighters were called to tackle the blaze just after midnight on Tuesday morning.
“The tower served as a symbol of our strong support for diversity within our ranks and the LGBTQ community who call Long Beach home,” Long Beach Marine Safety Chief Gonzalo Medina told the Los Angeles Times. “The tower will be replaced and repainted by lifeguards.”
Long Beach has a gay mayor: Robert Garcia. He took to Twitter to say he had little doubt why the hut had burned.
“Last night, our PRIDE lifeguard station that was painted by LGBTQ+ lifeguards, burned down. The fire is under investigation but I personally have little doubt this was an act of hate. To whoever committed this act, we will rebuild it better and brighter.”
Last night, our PRIDE lifeguard station that was painted by LGBTQ+ lifeguards, burned down. The fire is under investigation but I personally have little doubt this was an act of hate. To whoever committed this act, we will rebuild it better and brighter. pic.twitter.com/VxNQZgCBpF
— Robert Garcia (@RobertGarcia) March 23, 2021
Among those to respond to the mayor’s tweet was a woman who had captured footage of the blaze.
So sad. I saw it as it happened. pic.twitter.com/Ofpt8Q4k90
— Jennifer Pruitt (@Jenisey123) March 23, 2021
Garcia told the Los Angeles Times that it was the first time a lifeguard hut had burned down in 60 years. He didn’t believe it was a coincidence that it happened to the rainbow hut, and pointed out none of the huts have their own power supplies, so it could not be due to a power malfunction.
“To have the one lifeguard station that’s burned to the ground be the one that was recently painted in pride colors — that leaves little doubt that this was a targeted incident,” Garcia said.
“As a gay man who is also the mayor of a city, I understand that hate incidents still happen. They happen to people I know, and they’ve happened to me.
At a press conference yesterday, Garcia vowed the hut would return.
“To whoever committed this act: please know that, one, you are not welcome in our city. And, two, that we will rebuild the lifeguard station brighter, gayer and bigger than it was before.”
The hut was made from steel and fiberglass. Dave Stollery, CEO of Industrial Design Research, a company that specializes in fiberglass lifeguard towers, told Long Beach Post that fiberglass is not particularly flammable and he therefore also found it hard to believe the blaze was accidental.
“I think in the 30 years I’ve been involved in this business, we’ve never heard of a lifeguard tower burning.”