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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Houston, TX Mayor's Car Towed, Driver Asks For Autograph

Here's the story from the Houston Examiner:
Mayor White had his car towed, and then he was asked for an autograph by the wrecker driver who towed him during Thursday night's four-alarm fire that leveled the Gallery Furniture warehouse on I-45 North.

Flames were visible for miles and traffic slowed to a crawl on the I-45 North Freeway, a problem made even worse by dozens of spectators who jumped out of their cars to stand and stare.

Police moved in to block entrance and exit ramps, and the Safe Clear Wreckers that Mayor Bill White commissioned after his election to ease traffic congestion also moved into action.

HPD officers say the wreckers started towing onlookers' cars from the freeway, and it turns out one of those cars belonged to Mayor White himself.

Mayor's office aide Frank Michel says White has routinely shown up at major fires and shootings, so this was no different. This time, he had his daughter with him but he was unable to reach the fire scene due to the traffic mess, according to Michel.

Houston's chief executive inched along I-45 and parked his car at the closest spot he could find, then he and his daughter jumped out and jogged to the fire command center. The Mayor spoke with fire scene commanders, and he met with Gallery Furniture owner Jim McIngvale (or "Mattress Mac"). He also was interviewed by several news crews.

The mayor then returned to the spot where he parked his car, only to find out his own brigade of Safe Clear Wreckers had hauled his car away with many others.

No official City of Houston markings are on the car and no sign was placed in the window, according to Michel.

The Mayor approached an HPD officer who was handling the messed up traffic, and the Safe Clear wrecker was called back with the Mayor's car. The tow truck arrived at the fire department command post, then lowed the car and opened the door for White and his daughter to head home.

Mayor White says the Safe Clear Wrecker driver was courteous, and even asked the Mayor for an autograph.

Traffic remained a mess through Friday evening's rush hour, with motorists continuing to gawk at all the fire trucks, news crews, and rubble that remains on the spot of Gallery Furniture, a well-known Houston landmark.

Houston Fire Department investigators started the task of pinpointing the cause of this fire, which involved more than 175 firefighters and dozens of pumper and ladder trucks. One employee told investigators an electrical short in the warehouse may have sparked the fire, but no official cause has been released.

Safe Clear Wreckers cruise Houston freeways to clear disabled cars. A city law that was passed at Mayor White's urging allows wreckers to remove cars with or without owners' permission after 6-minutes. If broken down motorists don't submit, police are called to push the issue and enforce the Safe Clear law. Mayor White has credited the program with cutting down on freeway collisions citywide.

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