There are few people in this world who don’t know of Notre-Dame de Paris and the story of the cathedral’s bell-ringer who was made famous by the Disney movie, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. This famous cathedral, Notre-Dame, endured one of the greatest architectural disasters when a great fire broke out in the highest tower of the building in April 2019. Everyone was devastated by this catastrophe, but firefighters battled tirelessly with the flames to save the main part of the historical building.
Bright Side wanted to point out how difficult their job was and why. Don’t miss the bonus at the end that shows how Notre-Dame might be reconstructed in the future.
The fire struck on Monday the 15th of April and took one whole day to be put out. As reported, the fire started from the attic of the cathedral and quickly spread to the roof. Notre-Dame was undergoing some major renovations on the spire at the time, which burned completely and fell apart in the end.
As stated by the police, it is believed that an electrical short circuit might have been to blame for the fire. It’s said that some workers were smoking on the scaffolding, and a cigarette butt could have also been the culprit.
Since Notre-Dame is situated on Île de la Cité, a small island in the center of Paris, it was extra difficult for firefighters to access the fire and it took some time for the firetrucks to gather at the site.
Another major difficulty firefighters faced was the complexity of the roof and its very thin and thick wooden columns that were immensely flammable and burned slowly for hours at a time.
Gregg Favre, the former commander at St. Louis Fire Department in the US, stated on Twitter that churches are nearly impossible to control when it comes to ventilation, making it so that fires can quickly spread and burn for hours because of their wooden construction and large open spaces.
There were few to no fire stops; in other words, there was no passive fire protection system. Fire stops are made from various elements and are used to seal openings. Most historical landmarks, especially churches like Notre-Dame, lack fire stops and their heavy, timber construction is easily flammable and extremely difficult to preserve if they catch on fire.
Since there were renovations going on, a lot of construction materials might have been explosive when hit with water. Additionally, other hazardous materials could have easily become airborne.
Commander Gregg Favre shared a design on his Twitter to help people get a better understanding about how fires actually burn, why the Notre-Dame fire was burning for so long, and how it was almost impossible for the fire crew to put it out.
“You need oxygen, fuel, heat, and a chemical chain reaction. If you take any one of these away (like cool materials, fuel, oxygen, or interrupt the CCR) the fire will go out,” he wrote.
Many people suggested using flying water tankers to drop water from above, but according to professor Guillermo Rein, something like that would’ve damaged the gothic architectural monument so badly it would’ve collapsed.
Because of the great height of the building and its complicated structure, it was almost impossible for the crew to find the right angle at which to throw the water from in order to hit the fire. According to a former firefighter, attacking the fire from the inside was the only way to save the building since using aerial appliances, ladders, and hydraulic platforms wouldn’t do any good.
Even at historic landmarks, safety comes first and the firefighters of Paris managed to not only save everyone but also keep the fire under control and extinguish it, preserving the greatest part of Notre-Dame, its main structure and 2 bell towers.
Bonus: Architects from all over the world hastened to develop modern proposals for the future spire design of the cathedral. Here are some of the most popular ones.
We’re amazed by what people can do in incredibly dangerous situations when they work together. Have you ever been to the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris? What are your thoughts on historical landmarks and how they can be protected from accidents like this?
Preview photo credit pompier_de_paris