State and federal teams are investigating a suspected arson case in relation to a fire that ravaged the Governor's Mansion early Sunday morning. The fire caused no injuries, but severly damaged the historic building that sits on the corner of Colorado and 10th streets and has housed governors and their families for more than 150 years.
The state fire marshal and a fire investigation team from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were dispatched Sunday to investigate the incident.
Witnesses called police around 1:45 a.m., said Allison Castle, spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry. Castle said Perry and his wife, Anita, are on an economic development trip in Europe but were notified immediately after the fire was reported.
"The governor and first lady are heartbroken," she said. "This is a tremendous piece of Texas history."
Castle said damage costs will not be
available until structural engineers are able to access the building when the investigation is complete.
Former Gov. Mark White, who served from 1983 to 1987, stopped by the charred mansion on the way to his Dripping Spings home. He said the mansion was a place of fond memories for all who have lived there and added that there were few fire suppression systems within.
"Gov. Perry very wisely was trying to improve safety and security in the mansion," White said, regarding renovations to the mansion that started in 2007.
Perry and his family had been living in a rented house in west Austin while the mansion was undergoing renovations. The building last underwent renovations in the 1980s, said Gay Ratliff, a board member for Friends of the Governor's Mansion.
Passerby Ryan Dougay, a UT alumnus, said he was shocked by the damage to the mansion and the possibility of arson.
"I think it's just an atrocity in and of itself," Dougay said, as he surveyed the damage.
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