Arson suspected in Texas governor's mansion fire
By KELLEY SHANNON, Associated Press Writer 48 minutes
AUSTIN, Texas - Arson is suspected in the fire that
struck the historic Texas Governor's Mansion early
Sunday, causing damage that state officials described
as "bordering on catastrophic," the state fire marshal
No one was inside the 152-year-old mansion at the
time, said Robert Black, a spokesman for Gov. Rick
Perry. The mansion had been undergoing a $10 million
renovation, and Perry and his wife, Anita, had moved
out last fall.
"We have some evidence that indicates that we do have
an intentionally set fire," said state Fire Marshal
Paul Maldonado. "So we believe that we may be looking
at a criminal act here."
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
was sending in a team to help investigate, Maldonado
said. He did not give details on how the fire may have
been set or whether there was a suspect, but said
there were security cameras on the premises.
State officials said they hoped the Greek
Revival-style mansion had not been destroyed, but the
damage clearly was extensive.
"It is bordering on catastrophic. The roof has not yet
collapsed. The structure is still intact," said
Allison Castle, a Perry spokeswoman.
However, the roof had buckled in places and the
building was blackened, including parts of the six
29-foot columns standing at the front. In some places,
white paint had burned away to reveal the original
color of the brick.
"They built them pretty sturdy back then," Black said.
"Nonetheless, it's taken quite a beating this
Black said some interior ornamentation was damaged
beyond repair. Two white front porch swings appeared
to be unscathed.
The mansion is a national historic landmark. Built in
1856, it is the oldest continually used executive
residence west of the Mississippi, according to the
group Friends of the Governor's Mansion, which works
to preserve and show the public the historic building.
About 100 firefighters were sent to the four-alarm
blaze, Fire Department spokeswoman Dawn Clopton said.
Small hot spots were still being extinguished more
than five hours later.
A state trooper who was on the grounds as part of
regular security detail heard the mansion's fire
alarm, saw flames and called the fire department, said
Tela Mange, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of
Perry and his wife were in Stockholm, Sweden, on
Sunday as part of a European trip. They are scheduled
to return Tuesday.
Black said all furniture and historic artifacts had
been removed from the mansion before the renovations
The mansion had a fire alarm but no sprinkler system.
Black said installation of a fire suppression system
was among the renovations that began in October.
The large trees surrounding the mansion, which sits on
a lot the size of a city block, made it difficult for
firefighters to position their equipment, Clopton
The governor uses the mansion as a home and for
official functions, such as hosting heads of state or
Associated Press Writer Paul J. Weber in Dallas
contributed to this report.