Flames tore through a campus-based Chabad-Lubavitch center over the weekend, severely damaging the residence of its directors, Rabbi Mendel and Rochel Loschak, and spurring students to join the rebuilding effort.

No one was hurt in the blaze, which started around noon Sunday at the Chabad House serving the University of California at S. Barbara. The Loschaks have temporarily relocated to the home of the rabbi’s parents, who direct Chabad-Lubavitch of S. Barbara.

“I was on the other end of the house when I heard my wife yell that the house was on fire,” said Mendel Loschak. “All of the alarms went off, and smoke quickly spread throughout the building.”

The couple and their four children quickly evacuated the premises, which serves as their home, a synagogue and Jewish student center. Assured of his family’s safety, Loschak then went back inside the burning building to save its holy Torah scrolls. The building was insured.

“When I ran back in, I tried to put out the fire, but it was too late,” related the rabbi. “The fire had already spread from a couch along the wall to an outdoor balcony that is entirely made of wood.”

It took the fire department 20 minutes to put out the blaze, Loschak estimated. Extensive damage was found throughout the building’s second floor, where at least one room was completely destroyed, and part of the first floor. Heavy smoke damage was seen throughout the property.

Located in a campus neighborhood full of sorority and fraternity houses, the fire drew crowds of onlookers.

“During and immediately after the fire,” said Loschak, “students started streaming into the area to see if we needed anything.”

Tomer Kalifa, a Jewish student at the university, observed the fire from afar and quickly drove to the Chabad House, which offers students a variety of classes, Shabbat meals and holiday programs.

“I saw smoke rising from the area,” he said. “When I got there, the rabbi was outside on the grass with his family. The flames were shooting out of the house.”

The local chapter of AEPi, an historically Jewish fraternity, offered its assistance; the chapter’s vice president told the rabbi: “Our home is your home.” Other students quickly formed a group on the Facebook social networking site to aid in the relief efforts.

Loschak said that while the fire has understandably thrown his family in an upheaval, the Chabad House will continue to host programs for students.

“Every Monday, we have a Torah class and pizza meal,” he explained. “Since we obviously can’t have it in our building, we will be have it at my parents’ Chabad House in S. Barbara proper.”

To donate to the rebuilding efforts, click here.