June 08, 2008
Fire at the Governor's mansion


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.

I'm very glad no one was injured, I hope whoever did this is caught, and I join with Governor White in calling for a full rebuild of the Mansion.

UPDATE: Here's some video from KXAN, and also from KVUE.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 08, 2008 to The great state of Texas

** I join with Governor White in calling for a full rebuild of the Mansion. **

I join you in joining with Governor White in calling for a full rebuild of the mansion!

Just one question: Is there anybody who is opposed to a full rebuild of the mansion?

Posted by: Kevin Whited on June 9, 2008 8:37 PM

I'll quote Burka:

"The rebuilding of the mansion is sure to be a costly undertaking, and the question arises whether the Legislature will pay for it. For the 1979 renovation, the Legislature appropriated $1 million, which wouldn't go very far today, and the Friends of the Governor's Mansion, started by First Lady Rita Clements, raised $3 million. I vaguely recall that some Democrats objected to the Clements' benefiting from private donations, much as some D's objected to the recent renovation of the speaker's office."

I believe the answer to your question is that if it's possible to do this on the cheap, someone in the Lege will advocate it.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on June 9, 2008 10:14 PM