An early morning fire at the Governor's Mansion today was intentionally set, a state fire investigator said.
State Fire Marshal Paul Maldonado declined to discuss further details but said there was no indication the fire was intended as a direct threat to Gov. Rick Perry.
No one was in the building, which has been closed several months for renovation, when the fire broke out. The governor has been living in a rented house in suburban Austin since last fall.
He and his wife, Anita, are in Stockholm, Sweden, finishing up a weeklong, trade-related trip to Europe.
The fire, discovered by security officers about 1:45 a.m., was under control by 6:30 a.m., but there were still hot spots in the building. Flames broke through a portion of the roof about 9:30 a.m. but were quickly extinguished.
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms was assisting the state Fire Marshal's office in the investigation. Maldonado indicated security cameras posted around the building were helpful to investigators.
But officials declined to discuss more details, including how an arsonist could have gone undetected by Department of Public Safety troopers assigned to secure the building and its grounds.
Damage to the 152-year-old historic structure is "extraordinary, bordering on catastrophic,'' including a partially collapsed roof, said Perry spokesman Robert Black.
Millions of dollars worth of antique furnishings, portraits and other heirlooms had been removed from the mansion and placed in storage before renovation began. But Black said it was impossible to calculate the historic value of the building itself.
He said officials hoped the first floor could be structurally salvaged, but there was more uncertainty about saving the second floor.
Former Gov. Mark White, who lived in the Mansion from 1983-1986 and took office shortly before a fire heavily damaged the state Capitol, said he was devasted by the latest fire.
"We just must rebuild it,'' he said, urging state officials to use the occasion to fully restore the Mansion to its original structure, much as state government did to the Capitol following the 1983 fire.