NEWPORT BEACH (CBSLA) — The search is on for an arsonist who struck overnight in Newport Beach.

A wooden lifeguard tower at the Wedge was a place where lifeguards watched over some of the most dangerous surf in all of Southern California. On it was a plank of wood with about a dozen names inscribed, memorializing those who lost their lives over the decades.

But around 3:45 a.m. Thursday, someone set the tower on fire. A camera streaming video to the website caught the arsonist attempting to set the structure on fire several times before flames erupted and consumed the tower.

All that was left behind was charred wood and black stains on the sand. The base and the ladder leading to the tower survived the fire, but were removed by city workers as they cleaned up the damage. Hundreds of dollars’ worth of equipment — flags, signs and first aid gear — was also destroyed.

But lifeguards are hopeful the city can salvage a burned plank, the one honoring those who died.

“The municipal operations crew took care to preserve the plank,” Mike Halphide, Newport Beach Fire Department chief lifeguard, said. “We went and got it from the yard and have it secured. Our plans are to either see if we can reinstall it when we rebuild the tower or in other ways repurpose it to honor and commemorate those people.”

According to the city, the tower had been at that location since 2005 and was nearing the end of its lifespan. The cost to replace it is between $12,000 and $15,000.


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