Road trip news, rants, and ruminations by the Editors of RoadsideAmerica.com
May 11, 2011
In 1970, two young firemen built a statue outside the Central Fire Station in Lafayette, Louisiana. It’s a fireman, stripped to his undershirt, bent over a hose that’s writhing like a giant snake, pointing toward an unseen inferno with a dramatic gesture.
Forty years ago it was just a home-built statue to honor firemen. But as decades have passed, the statue has come to look more and more like an erotic dancer or a member of the Village People. It now has its own Facebook page: Lafayette Gay Fire Fighter. Photos across the web show the statue draped with leis, feather boas, and Christmas tree bulbs, accompanied by grinning fans.
Things came to a head in late April 2011, during Lafayette’s annual Festival International de Louisiane. The fire department hid the statue beneath a tarp (removed after the festival) and fire chief Robert Benoit went on local TV to ask viewers to please stop trashing his department’s statue.
Chief Benoit told us that the fire department has no problem with its statue’s newfound fans, and it doesn’t mind that people want to take pictures. But the statue wasn’t built to handle this much attention. “Had we not covered it up, someone probably would have broke off its hand,” he said. “It’s not a swing to swing on. It’s not to ride like you would a bull. Take pictures with it if you want to, but don’t destroy it.”
The statue, according to Chief Benoit, is already brittle from 40 years exposure to Louisiana weather. To save it for future generations of admirers, Lafayette’s firefighters are pooling their money and will soon erect an iron fence around the statue, tall enough to discourage would-be posers, but low enough to accommodate shutterbugs.
“We’re just asking for respect; it’s a memorial for us,” said Chief Benoit. “We want it to stay there for as long as the Lafayette Fire Department exists. You don’t have to hang on it to take a good picture.”
Lafayette's Photogenic Fireman
- 300 E. Vermilion St., Lafayette, LA
- Downtown, in front of Central Fire Station. On the south side of E. Vermilion St. just west of Lee Ave. and one block west of US Hwy 167/Johnston St.
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