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San Pedro Elks Lodge members survey damage from morning fire

Firefighters were still trying to determine Tuesday how much damage was caused by a fire that burned through San Pedro’s Elks Lodge, a huge building that housed decades of organization history.

“I’m sick about it, terribly sick,” said Kuzma Domanchich, 91, who joined the San Pedro Elks Lodge 52 years ago. “I’m here everyday for lunch and Sunday for brunch. Seeing this scene, it’s a terrible loss.”

The lodge–a 33,700-square-foot, two-story building with three tennis courts, an auditorium and Olympic-sized pool–was built in 1957 and sits on a bluff facing the ocean.

Authorities said a 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.

Exalted Ruler Jose Chavez, the chapter’s current leader, told KTLA-TV he managed to save a century-old Bible from the building. According to the chapter’s website, the San Pedro Elks Lodge was formed in 1905, and it has more than 3,000 members.

It was the second blaze on the property this week. Fire Department spokesman Bryan Humphrey said firefighters were also at the property about 6:30 a.m. Sunday to put out a small grass-and-rubbish fire. It was unclear if the two fires were connected, but investigators were not ruling it out, Humphrey said.

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