Notre-Dame fire probe: What we know about the cause of the blaze

As investigators sift through the wreckage of the iconic cathedral, attention has now turned to finding the cause of the blaze that devastated the 850-year-old gothic masterpiece. So what do we know so far?

Notre-Dame fire probe: What we know about the cause of the blaze
Fire investigators will use drone footage to map the spread of the flames. Photo: AFP

Could it have been arson?

No. Fire investigators have been quick to rule out arson as the cause of the blaze and say that all indications are that the fire started by accident.

Public prosecutor Remy Heitz told reporters: “Nothing suggests that it was a voluntary act.”

Investigators and engineers have been on the scene Photo AFP

Where did it start?

The seat of the fire has now been established as the base of the steeple. The blaze then quickly spread through the wooden roof until it completely engulfed the spire, which came crashing down to gasps of horror from onlookers.

The spire had been the centre of long-running restoration work on the cathedral. It was being strengthened because the lead on the base had thinned over time, making the structure more fragile.

As part of the works, elevators had been installed to the roof, and investigators will be examining all electrics in the area to see if an electrical fault started the blaze.

Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz is leading the investigation. Photo: AFP

Who first alerted authorities?

The first flames were spotted by two security guards, but by that point the flames were already several metres high.

There have been reports that one of the cathedral fire alarms had gone off earlier, but in a different section of the building. This is one strand that investigators will be looking in to.

How is the investigation progressing?

Fire investigators have focused on the restoration work being carried out and have already spoken to more than 30 people from five different construction companies. Twelve people were spoken to on the night of the fire, and a further 20 have been spoken to since.

Over the coming days they will be using drones to take aerial photos to try and establish exactly how the fire spread.

Prosecutor Remy Heitz has said the investigation promises to be “long and complex” and has assigned 50 investigators to work on it.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Notre-Dame restoration work begins as Paris cathedral on track to reopen in 2024

France's Notre-Dame cathedral is finally ready to undergo restoration work more than two years after a blaze ravaged the heritage landmark, and remains on course to reopen in 2024, authorities said Saturday, following months of painstaking work to secure the building.

Notre-Dame restoration work begins as Paris cathedral on track to reopen in 2024

The great mediaeval edifice survived the inferno on April 15th, 2019, but the spire collapsed and much of the roof was destroyed.

The focus until now had been on making the cathedral safe before restoration work could begin, which included the strenuous task of removing 40,000 pieces of scaffolding that were damaged in the blaze.

“The cathedral stands solid on its pillars, its walls are solid, everything is holding together,” said Jean-Louis Georgelin, head of the public entity tasked with rebuilding the cathedral.

Scaffolding in the interior of the building as the restoration phase begins. Photo by Thomas SAMSON / POOL / AFP

“We are determined to win this battle of 2024, to reopen our cathedral in 2024. It will be France’s honour to do so and we will do so because we are all united on this goal.”

The aim is to celebrate the first full service in the cathedral on April 16th, 2024 – five years after the fire – despite delays caused by the pandemic and the lead that spread during the blaze.

The Notre-Dame spire, a later addition to the medieval building, was completely destroyed in the blaze. Photos by AFP

Authorities will now call for tenders to select the companies to carry out the restoration work.

The cathedral’s interior walls and floors will also undergo “a thorough cleaning process” later this month.

Notre-Dame’s famous Grand Organ is already being restored, with its 8,000 pipes dismantled and sent to organ builders all over France.

It is expected to be put together again in October 2023, said Georgelin, the former head of France’s armed forces who was appointed by President Emmanuel Macron to oversee rebuilding efforts.