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17-year-old charged with arson in massive Leslieville Elks Lodge fire

The Elks Lodge in Leslieville, Alta. was destroyed by fire Friday, Dec. 29, 2017. Courtesy, Scott Finkbeiner

A teenage boy has been arrested and charged with arson following a devastating fire at a local lodge in central Alberta last month.

The fire on the evening of Dec. 29, 2017, destroyed the Elks Lodge in Leslieville, a small farming community located about 35 kilometres east of Rocky Mountain House.

The Elks Lodge in Leslieville, Alta. was destroyed by fire Friday, Dec. 29, 2017. Courtesy, Scott Finkbeiner

Clearwater Regional Fire Rescue responded to the blaze in the hamlet, arriving 17 minutes later to find the building engulfed in flames.

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READ MORE: Central Alberta hamlet devastated by ‘suspicious’ overnight lodge fire

About 42 firefighters from four neighbouring fire crews were involved in the fight at the peak of the blaze. Crews said bitterly cold, sub -40 C temperatures, coupled with the fact Leslieville doesn’t have a hydrant system, made the firefight very challenging.

The Elks Lodge in Leslieville, Alta. was destroyed by fire Friday, Dec. 29, 2017. Courtesy, Scott Finkbeiner

No one was injured in the fire, but the historic building was destroyed.

The cause of the fire was quickly determined to be arson. After nearly a month of investigating, Rocky Mountain House RCMP arrested a 17-year-old boy from Clearwater County on Jan. 25 and charged him with one count of arson.

READ MORE: New RCMP unit focuses on property crime, repeat offenders in central Alberta

He was set to appear at a bail hearing at court in Rocky Mountain House on Monday. Since the teen is underage, he cannot be named due to the Youth Criminal Justice Act. RCMP said no further information about the investigation would be released.

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The Elks Lodge in Leslieville, Alta. was destroyed by fire Friday, Dec. 29, 2017. Courtesy, Scott Finkbeiner

The Elks Lodge in Leslieville was at least 75 years old. It was originally a school before the Elks, a non-profit group of members serving the community, took over the building in the 1950s. The Elks of Canada have more than 250 lodges in communities across Canada.

The Elks Lodge in Leslieville, Alta. destroyed by fire. Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017. Courtesy, Brenna Knopp

Many irreplaceable items were lost in the blaze, including photos of past members and elk heads.

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READ MORE: Money from fundraiser stolen following ‘devastating’ Elks Hall blaze in Leslieville

A fundraiser was held to raise money to rebuild the hall, but $600 was later stolen.

The Leslieville Elks Hall on Jan. 14, 2018. Kim Smith / Global News

— With files from Kim Smith and Caley Ramsay, Global News