What was erected in 1970 as a salute to firefighters has taken on a life of its own. The statue of a muscled fireman pointing to an unknown fire while dealing with a firehose was built by two young firemen. The structure is outside the Lafayette Central Fire Station adjacent to the sidewalk and can be viewed by all who visit downtown Lafayette.
What began as an honor to firemen has over the years taken own a life of its own. During its over forty year tenure, the fireman has been adorned with boas, leis, Christmas lights, Mardi Gras beads and other festive items.
Think erotic dancer or Village People, which is what the statue has been seen as in recent years. Built as an unassuming statue to honor firefighters, it now enjoys its own Facebook page, Lafayette Gay Fire Fighter. The page was started by fans and is no way associated with the Lafayette Fire Department.
Because of all this interest in the statue, the fire chief became afraid for the integrity of the monument. He also wanted more respect shown and to remember the original reason for the statue – to honor firemen. In 2011 Chief Benoit decided to take matters in his hands and had the statue covered with a tarp during the annual Festival International de Louisiane. The chief did not mind the statue’s fans or its lore. But after forty years of Louisiana climate the statue was brittle and the chief wanted the monument to last as long as possible. His intention was to stop the destruction of the statue. Per the chief, “Had we not covered it up, someone probably would have broke off it hand. 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.”
To protect the statue from its many fans, there is a wrought iron fence surrounding the monument. The fence is high enough to protect the statue, yet low enough to take great pictures. So when in Lafayette, view the statue and think about its evolution, take pictures, but remember it is a statue to honor for all firemen.