Local Masonic Lodge goes up in Smoke for the Second Time

By: Betsy Goldin
By: Betsy Goldin

Gulf County authorities are investigating what they believed to be a case of arson.
It happened early Monday morning at the Masonic Lodge in Port St. Joe.
The fire was not the first time the Masonic Lodge has gone up in flames, and authorities said it is not a coincidence.
"We came outside rushing. All we saw was flames, and smoke coming out,” said Bryan Meja. “Our kids started panicking. We had to get everyone out of the space. This was about 2-3am. It was hectic."
Meja was celebrating an early Christmas with his family downtown, but the party came to an abrupt end when they heard fire trucks and saw smoke pouring from the Masonic Lodge.
"By the time they could get to it the whole building was totally destroyed,” said William Guilford, the master of the Masonic Lodge. “The lodge is going to have to be moved."
Guilford and several other members of the lodge spent Christmas Eve trying to salvage their history.
"We're just trying to get the historical records and things we can save,” Marlen Taylor, a member of the lodge said. “That can't be replaced, the history of this lodge."
Authorities said the two fires were not an accident.
"We responded both times and called in the State Fire Marshall after determining something wasn't right,” Fire Marshall John Ward said. “They determined it was an arson case in both fires."
The case is still under an investigation but authorities believe they do have a promising lead.


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