By Louis Chan, AsAmNews National Correspondent
Preservationists and anti-hate protesters joined forces in historic Wintersburg in Huntington Beach Saturday three weeks after a fire destroyed the Japanese American settlement near Los Angeles.
They called for an end to violence against Asian Americans and the need to protect the community’s history.
On Friday, the city of Huntington Beach issued a statement saying it found no evidence of arson or a hate crime.
The exact cause of the fire is under investigation and authorities are hoping to talk to a transient who is believed to have lived at the site.
“Evidence of personal belongings at the site of the fire indicate at least one individual was possibly living on the property. Through the investigation, the HBPD was able to determine that a local known transient was living nearby and was seen leaving the area shortly after the fire. That individual is not currently a suspect,” the city said in a statement.
“A second potential cause is due to the Wintersburg property being electrified at the time of the fire. After inquiring with Southern California Edison, electricity may have been illegally and dangerously acquired by tapping into a nearby power source, bypassing the electric meter.”
The Historic Wintersburg Preservation Task Force has been pushing to save the six historic structures at Wintersburg that date back to 1910. They are considered a reminder of the Alien Land Law of 1913 which prohibited Japanese-born residents from owning land.
In 2015, AsAmNews reported the National Trust for Historic Preservation named the site a national treasure.
A year earlier AsAmNews reported it had been added to the list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.
The site is currently owned by Republic Services.
“Sites like Wintersburg receive inadequate support from the agencies tasked with protecting them. In Congress I will pursue legislation that protects irreplaceable historical sites. I hope that the lost structures will be rebuilt,” Jay Chen, a candidate for Congress in the 45th Congressional District tweeted.
The group Historic Wintersburg also released a statement saying “We are relieved to hear they do not consider it an intentional fire. It does point to the inadequate security and lack of care and maintenance by the current property owner, Republic Services.”
It has been calling on Republic Services to sell the property to them so the buildings can be preserved.
According to the city, Republic Services has pledged to increase security at the site.
“All six structures at Historic Wintersburg are designated as eligible for the National Register of Historic Places in the City of Huntington Beach General Plan,” Historic Wintersburg said.
The group also says the city failed to acknowledge the lost of one of two churches in the fire.
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