Dozens investigating cause of massive Notre Dame fire

Notre Dame Cathedral fire may have been caused by electrical problem: report

Notre Dame fire: What we know

  • A major fire erupted at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Monday.
  • The cause of the blaze remains unclear, but officials do not suspect terrorism or arson.
  • About 50 people are involved with the investigation.
  • So far, about a billion dollars have been pledged to help restore the landmark.

Authorities in Paris are still trying to piece together exactly what happened before Notre Dame Cathedral caught fire, which officials believe was an accident. About 50 investigators are involved with the probe, and they have started questioning 30 employees from different companies, including those that were involved in the cathedral’s restoration work.

French newspaper Le Parisien reported that a fire alarm went off at Notre Dame shortly after 6 p.m. Monday but a computer bug showed the fire’s location in the wrong place. The paper reported the flames may have started at the bottom of the cathedral’s giant spire and may have been caused by an electrical problem in an elevator.

Officials had said a fire alarm was triggered at 6:20 p.m., but no fire was discovered. Then, at 6:43 p.m., another alarm sounded.

At that point, fire spread quickly from the roof near the rear of Notre Dame. In less than an hour, it engulfed the spire, which — just 13 minutes later — collapsed as onlookers watched in horror.

Photos show damage inside Notre Dame

Pictures from inside Notre Dame on Tuesday showed debris from collapsed portions of the roof surrounding the altar, but the surrounding stonework appeared to be intact. A pile of fallen pieces of stone and charred wood were seen on a wet floor.

Charred debris surrounds the altar of Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral in the aftermath of a massive fire April 16, 2019.
Charred debris surrounds the altar of Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral in the aftermath of a massive fire April 16, 2019. Getty

Light shined through gaping holes in the intricately carved vaulted ceiling. Bertrand de Feydeau, vice president of the preservation group Fondation du Patrimoine, told the AP that the roof’s wooden beams cannot be remade because “we don’t, at the moment, have trees on our territory of the size that were cut in the 13th century.”

A view of the damaged roof and debris inside Notre Dame in Paris in the aftermath of a fire that devastated the cathedral, April 16, 2019.
A view of the damaged roof and debris inside Notre Dame in Paris in the aftermath of a fire that devastated the cathedral, April 16, 2019. Christophe Petit Tesson/Pool via Reuters

Notre Dame was undergoing major renovations

The fire may potentially involve renovation work that was being carried out at the cathedral, Paris’ fire service said. Extensive scaffolding covered a portion of the roof as part of the $6.8 million project before the fire broke out.

Massive fire tears through Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

New York landmarks lit in colors of French flag

Two New York City landmarks — One World Trade Center and the spire of the Empire State Building — lit up in blue, white and red in solidarity with the people of France and the Catholic community, CBS New York reports.

“Our hearts ached as we watched a devastating fire ravage one of the world’s most sacred and celebrated religious monuments. The Notre Dame Cathedral’s centuries of history, art and iconic architecture are irreplaceable, and we are deeply grateful to the brave first responders who worked diligently to extinguish the flames and save portions of this significant piece of French and Catholic history,” said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “New York stands in solidarity with the people of France and Catholics worldwide who are mourning this tremendous loss.”

Notre Dame Cathedral’s history

Construction of Notre Dame began in 1163 during the reign of King Louis VII and was completed in 1345. The cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a worldwide Parisian icon and the location of some of the most important moments in the history of France.

Henry VI of England was crowned inside the cathedral in 1431 and Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned emperor of France inside the cathedral in 1804.

The cathedral receives nearly 13 million visitors a year and is home to exquisite religious artifacts, paintings, sculptures and other priceless works of art.

It had been undergoing renovations after cracks began to appear in the stone, sparking fears the structure could become unstable. CBS News’ Roxana Saberi reported in March 2018 that years of rain, snow and pollution had eroded the flying buttresses that prop the cathedral up.

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is falling apart

James Shepherd, director of preservation and facilities at the Washington National Cathedral, spoke with CBSN on Monday about Notre Dame’s epic history.

“That’s 800 years of history, of people pilgrimaging there and worshiping there, and the accumulation of culture,” Shepherd said by phone. “All of that will have to be taken into consideration as they try to repair this church and save it after this devastating fire.”

Shepherd spoke of Notre Dame’s “stunning and exclusive stained-glass windows,” which the cathedral’s heritage director said Tuesday don’t appear to have been destroyed in the fire. Shepherd called them “absolutely priceless and some of the best examples of European stained-glass windows.”

Photos of the Notre Dame fire