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78-Year-Old Man Arrested in Fire That Destroyed San Pedro Elks Lodge

A 78-year-old San Pedro man has been arrested on suspicion of setting a fire that destroyed a historic Elks Lodge in the Harbor Area community earlier this month, the Los Angeles Fire Department announced Tuesday.

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A fast-moving fire caused extensive damage when it burned through the Elks Lodge in San Pedro on April 15, 2014. (Credit: KTLA)

Councilman Joe Buscaino announced the arrest at a 3 p.m. news conference in San Pedro.

Nick Pecarich, 78, was taken into custody early Tuesday “without incident” on suspicion of arson. He was being held on $500,000 bail, the Fire Department stated in a news release.

No booking photo of Pecarich was released and no further information was made available.

The department’s Arson-Counter-Terrorism Section worked with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Criminal Conspiracy Section, and the federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to make the arrest, the release stated.

The fire broke out in the early morning hours on April 15.

Pecarich was taken into custody by LAPD’s Harbor Division on April 16 but was released the next day, online county inmate records show. He was again arrested just before 1 p.m. Tuesday, inmate records show.

Buscaino and fire officials had vowed to catch the person responsible for setting the blaze, which consumed most of a nearly 40,000 square-foot building in the 1700 block of West Cumbre Drive.

The lodge has about 2,500 members, including Buscaino and some of the firefighters who fought the blaze.

Pecarich, a longtime San Pedro resident and  retired longshoreman, was also a member and had reportedly been in a recent disagreement at the lodge over a card game.

Pecarich’s neighbor said so much of the memorabilia lost in the fire was irreplaceable.

“It’s just heart-wrenching to think that someone could be so angry they’d just take it out on everybody,” neighbor Sharon Morgan said.

The owner of the local Chevron said Pecarich been at the gas station in the hours before the fire started.

“My graveyard employee brought it to my attention that somebody was in here at 2:25 a.m. buying a lighter and they had a gas can they were filling up at pump number 3,” said station owner Bill Michaelis.

Michaelis said he looked at the security tape and recognized Pecarich. He then turned the tapes over to investigators.

A Facebook page has been created with information on rebuilding efforts.

A fundraiser for the lodge was set for May 2.

Correction: An update to this story incorrectly switched the councilman’s name with the suspect’s. The story has been updated.

KTLA’s Mary Beth McDade and Kennedy Ryan contributed to this article.