"Coward" Set Fire to San Pedro Elks Lodge, Official Says

Firefighters were able to save a 109-year-old bible and other valuable items from the flames

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    NEWSLETTERS

    As investigators begin combing through the scene of the Elk Lodge fire in San Pedro, local event venues offered support to clients left without a place to celebrate. Hetty Chang reports from San Pedro for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, April 16, 2014. (Published Wednesday, Apr 16, 2014)

    A Los Angeles City Councilman on Wednesday vowed to hunt down and arrest the "coward" responsible for torching a beloved Southern California Elks Lodge.

    Fire Rips Through Elks Lodge

    [LA] Fire Rips Through Elks Lodge
    Investigators are looking into whether the fire that destroyed most of the Elks Lodge in San Pedro was set on purpose. Hetty Chang reports from San Pedro for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. (Published Tuesday, Apr 15, 2014)

    At an afternoon press conference a day after the blaze ripped through the two-story structure in San Pedro, officials said the fire was arson, but offered few details on how investigators came to that conclusion.

     "We damn well know that this fire was set on purpose," said Councilman Joe Buscaino, who shared his personal connection with the lodge and identified himself as a member.

    Firefighters Save Elks Lodge's Treasured Items

    [LA] Firefighters Save Elks Lodge's Treasured Items
    Firefighters save several items, including a Bible, from a fire that damaged an Elks Lodge building. Toni Guinyard reports for the NBC4 News at Noon on Tuesday April 15, 2014. (Published Tuesday, Apr 15, 2014)

    Interim Los Angeles Fire Chief James Featherstone said investigators determined Wednesday that the fire had been intentionally set to the landmark.

    The lodge, located on a hillside, was engulfed in flames early Tuesday morning, causing the roof to completely collapse.

    Bible Saved From Elks Lodge Fire

    [LA] Bible Saved From Elks Lodge Fire
    The Exalted Leader of a San Pedro Elks Lodge thanks firefighters for saving a Bible and other cherished items from a fire. Toni Guinyard reports for Today in LA on Tuesday April 15, 2014. (Published Tuesday, Apr 15, 2014)

    Officials said the severity of the fire has made the investigation difficult because evidence has been destroyed.

    Firefighters were able to save a 109-year-old bible that has been part of ceremonies at the lodge, as well as several other items that officials said were irreplaceable.

    "Suspicious" Elks Lodge Fire Damages Building

    [LA] "Suspicious" Fire at San Pedro Elks Lodge
    Firefighters describe the fight against a fire early Tuesday in San Pedro. Battalion Chief Steve Ruda of the Los Angeles Fire Department called the structure an "iconic San Pedro landmark." Toni Guinyard reports for Today in LA on Tuesday April 15, 2014. (Published Tuesday, Apr 15, 2014)

    Fifty employees were displaced by the blaze, Buscaino said.

    Another fire was reported at the same location outside the building at 6 a.m. Sunday, raising concern.

    The two fires were suspicious in nature, said Los Angeles Fire Battalion Chief Steve Ruda on Tuesday.

    Ruda called the lodge an "iconic San Pedro landmark" that was "serving the people of San Pedro for over 100 years."

    Exalted Ruler Jose Chavez said lodges from Hawaii to New York have called to lend support.

    The San Pedro Elks Lodge had more than 2,300 members.

    "We will rebuild the Elks," Buscaino said Wednesday. "It will be bigger and stronger than ever."

    Dozens of events were scheduled to take place at the lodge, including Katrina Guerrero’s Aug. 9 wedding.

    "We went and we just feel in love with it," Guerrero said.

    Watching the venue burn down is "probably the worst feeling in the world," she said.

    The lodge banquet manager, Sacha Bailey, said calls are pouring in from other facilities offering their space for the lodge’s clients.

    "It's scramble time to make sure we can find them a space available," Bailey said.

    Some 500 people had planned on attending a Sunday Easter brunch at the lodge, Bailey said. It may now happen at the venue's parking lot.

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