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Arson suspected in Texas governor's mansion fire

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080608/ap_on_re_us/governor_s_mansion_fire;_ylt=AsQalnuoWm_AP8uAbL9RIk.s0NUE Arson suspected in Texas governor s mansion fire By
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 8 10:52 AM
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080608/ap_on_re_us/governor_s_mansion_fire;_ylt=AsQalnuoWm_AP8uAbL9RIk.s0NUE

      Arson suspected in Texas governor's mansion fire

      By KELLEY SHANNON, Associated Press Writer 48 minutes
      ago

      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
      said.

      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
      morning."

      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
      Public Safety.

      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
      began.

      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
      said.

      The governor uses the mansion as a home and for
      official functions, such as hosting heads of state or
      dignitaries.

      ___

      Associated Press Writer Paul J. Weber in Dallas
      contributed to this report.
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