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.
A Bible that has been part of ceremonies at a Southern California Elks Lodge for more than 100 years and other items that have been part of the organization for decades were saved from a fire early Tuesday at the iconic building.
Firefighters responded to 1748 W. Cumbre Drive just after 2:50 a.m. The two-story building was fully engulfed in flames and the roof collapsed on the first floor around 3:30 a.m., according to officials. The fire was knocked down by 4:45 a.m.
The Bible, which was not damaged, is used during Elks Lodge ceremonies for the fraternal organization. It was one of several items firefighters brought out of the burned out building.
"I'm so elated that firefighters were able to save our lodge room and save this Bible," said Exalted Ruler Jose Chavez, who was in tears when firefighters handed him the Bible. "I've been holding this since 3 o'clock this morning."
The Bible has been signed by every Exalted Ruler, including Chavez, since 1905.
Battalion Chief Steve Ruda of the Los Angeles Fire Department called the structure an "iconic San Pedro landmark" that was "serving the people of San Pedro for over 100 years." The San Pedro Elks Lodge had more than 2,300 members.
"Anybody who lives in San Pedro has been here, for either a fundraiser, wedding, funeral, community fundraising event, said James Dimon, Elks Lodge trustee. "The lodge is the community and the community is the lodge."
The building a 37,000-square-foot two-story structure with a basement, located on a hillside. Ruda said the facility faced significant damage and that firefighters are saddened by the loss.
Firefighters were able to save what Ruda described as a ritual hall, where services and meetings are held.
"There was not total devastation here, we were able to save that particular part of the building and our hearts go out because everybody knows of this iconic building, (and) what they've done for the people of San Pedro," Ruda said.
No injuries have been reported.
There was a members-only meeting at the facility last night, but it's "hard to say" what the cause of the fire is just yet, according to Ruda.
Another fire was reported at the same location outside the building on Sunday at 6 a.m., raising concern.
"It is a little early to tell, however it is two fires close together that are of suspicious nature," Ruda said.