Rainbow lifeguard tower to be replaced by mid-May, fire department says

The Long Beach Fire Department on Thursday announced that a rainbow-colored lifeguard tower that burned down near 12th Place on March 23 will be replaced by mid-May.

The tower, which was painted by lifeguards in honor of Pride month last year, burned down in the early morning hours of Tuesday, March 23. The incident is currently under investigation by the Long Beach Fire Department, which hasn’t yet determined what caused the blaze.

However, many people, including Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, believe the fire was a targeted attack on the LGBTQ community. The lifeguard tower was the only one in Long Beach to be painted in the rainbow colors of the gay pride flag and, according to Marine Safety Chief Gonzalo Medina, the first one to burn down in the past 70 years, if not ever.

The burned remains, left, of a rainbow-colored lifeguard tower, right. Photos courtesy the Long Beach Fire Department.

“It is hurtful,” Garcia, who is the city’s first openly gay mayor, said at a vigil at the former site of the tower on March 24. “It is angering and it is sad to see folks cause destruction in our community.”

At the vigil, Medina said the department would work to have the tower replaced “in time for Pride.” The annual Long Beach Pride festival and parade, which normally takes place in mid-May, will be held virtually this year because of limitations on large gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic.

“That’s our goal to have it in time for when we traditionally celebrate,” the marine safety chief said, adding that the manufacturer of the fiberglass towers made arrangements to move the city’s order to the front of the line.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia speaks at a Unity Rally in support of the LGBTQ+ community at the site of the Pride Tower in Long Beach Wednesday, March 24, 2021.

“We’ve dealt with the city for decades and we’re glad to help,” said Dan Stollery, CEO of Industrial Design Research, the city’s supplier for lifeguard towers. “Everybody was willing and able to put in a little extra effort to get this tower done.”

The tower will once again be painted in rainbow colors by lifeguards, according to Medina.

Tess Parthouse, president of the Long Beach Lifeguard Association, said she was proud of the way the city had come together to make sure the tower was replaced quickly.

“It really meant a lot to all of our lifeguards,” Parthouse said. “All of us were upset to see it go and we’re happy that it will be back soon.”

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Alena Maschke writes about all things business and beyond for the Long Beach Business Journal/Long Beach Post. Born and raised in Germany, she first fell in love with California during an exchange year at UCLA. After receiving her master's degree in journalism from Columbia University in 2017, she returned to the Golden State with an appetite for great stories, pupusas and the occasional Michelada.