The fire that destroyed part of the Elks Lodge in San Pedro early Tuesday was intentionally set, investigators said.
The early morning fire tore through the 33,700-square-foot lodge less than a week after a brush fire had been extinguished on the property, officials said. It was unclear if the two fires were related but investigators were not ruling it out.
At a news conference in front of the lodge on Wednesday, interim Los Angeles Fire Chief Jim Featherstone and Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino, who represents the area, decried the arson.
Buscaino, one of about 2,500 members of the San Pedro Elks Lodge, called the blaze “tragic” and a huge loss for the Harbor Area community.
“I say to the coward who set this fire on purpose ... 'You will be hunted down and arrested,'" Buscaino said in remarks carried by KTLA-TV. “We don’t put up with this type of behavior in our San Pedro community.”
Authorities said the fire was reported just before 3 a.m. and quickly spread, engulfing the structure and collapsing part of the roof. It took more than 100 firefighters about two hours to extinguish the flames.
The huge building housed decades of organization history. The property, which includes three tennis courts, an auditorium and Olympic-sized pool, sits on a bluff facing the ocean.
After the fire was extinguished Tuesday, Kuzma Domanchich, 91, who joined the San Pedro Elks Lodge 52 years ago, said he was "sick about it, terribly sick.”
“I’m here every day for lunch and Sunday for brunch," he said. "Seeing this scene, it’s a terrible loss.”
[For the Record, April 17, 11:05 a.m.: An earlier version of this post referred to interim LAFD Chief Jim Featherstone as San Pedro fire chief.]