Accident or Arson?
The Islamic Center of Travis County burned down just months before it was set to open
An Islamic center in Northwest Austin that was slated to open this spring burned down to the ground early Saturday morning. Lake Travis Fire and Rescue crews showed up to the under-construction Islamic Center of Lake Travis at around 3:30am to discover a three-story building completely swallowed by flames. No injuries were reported. "By the time they all arrived the whole building was already burning; there was really nothing they could have done at that point," said Rehman Siddiqi, president of the center.
The Travis County Fire Marshal's Office is investigating the cause of the fire. Siddiqi tells the Chronicle the fire is "suspicious" given that electricity had not yet been installed in the building, but refrained from jumping to any conclusions about targeted arson or hate crime, as the cause is under investigation. Fire, ironically, served as the impetus for building an Islamic center: In 2011, the local Muslim community began a fundraising campaign to aid families affected by the Steiner Ranch wildfires. Through the campaign, local Muslims banded together and discovered the need for a centralized Islamic center to serve residents of Lake Travis.
The group estimates losses to be around $400,000 and started a fundraising page for donations to rebuild the center. To donate, visit: www.launchgood.com/project/islamic_center_of_lake_travis.