Man arrested in connection with fire at historic Buford Tower in downtown Austin

Crime

David Rosenblum (AFD)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Fire Department arson investigators have arrested a man believed to have set the fire that damaged the historic Buford Tower in downtown Austin on April 1.

David Rosenblum, 58, is charged with first degree felony arson in connection with the blaze, which began at a nearby homeless camp before spreading to the 1930s-era tower once called “The Old Fireman’s Practice Tower.”

Rosenblum was identified as the suspect after being questioned by police at the homeless camp, which he frequents, and later being spotted on surveillance igniting the fire. His bond was set at $15,000.

  • Fire from homeless camp spreads to historic Buford Tower in downtown Austin (KXAN/Tim Holcomb)
  • Fire from homeless camp spreads to historic Buford Tower in downtown Austin (KXAN/Tim Holcomb)

According to the Texas State Historical Association, the tower stands about 67 feet tall and was originally used as a training facility for local firefighters. TSHA says while the tower was used for many decades, by the 1970s it became unsafe to set fires for training due to the city’s growth.

The tower was dedicated in 1978 and named for AFD veteran Capt. James L. Buford, who died about six years earlier trying to rescue a teen who ended up drowning in flood waters from Shoal Creek, according to AFD.

Effie Kitchens, whose husband was involved in the tower’s original construction, and community volunteers helped to restore the building after it was no longer being used, TSHA says.

The estimated total damage to the tower and its contents equals $12,200.

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