Notre Dame Fire


Kyle Platt

The breathtaking Cathedral of Notre Dame ranks among the most recognizable of religious buildings, not only in Paris, but in the entire world. Construction for the gothic style cathedral began in 1160, although it wasn’t entirely completed until over a century later.

While some structural damage has occurred to the building over its 856 year life, primarily sustained during the French Revolution in the 1790’s, it has remained mostly intact—until now. At 6:20 pm local time on Monday, fire alarms went off inside the cathedral, and although they didn’t actually see fire, officials evacuated visitors from the building. It wasn’t until 6:43 pm until Notre Dame security officers actually laid eyes on the fire.

As horrified bystanders watched, along with citizens viewing the news from around the world, the flames erupting from the cathedral seemed to continue growing with little sign of slowing down. The architecture of the cathedral made it nearly impossible for firefighters to have any control over the fire.

The frame for the roof was built entirely with wooden beams, making it easy for the fire to spread rapidly. An additional difficulty the 400 firefighters who were sent to the scene faced is that the beams inside are covered with the cathedral’s stone exterior which didn’t allow them to access the source of the flames. Firefighters also had trouble controlling the fire because of its height which, at its peak, reached hundreds of feet into the air.

Many frightened onlookers called for the use of aircraft to drop tanks of water onto the fire but Glenn Corbett, professor of fire science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, says airplanes were out of the question, explaining that it would be impossible to drop water “exactly in that one spot moving several hundred miles an hour over it.” Corbett also reasoned that a helicopter would not work because of the thin air caused by such a massive fire.

Although it seems as though they could have done more to stop it, experts claim that the firefighters did all they could to staunch the flames. Their efforts were not without some success though, as they managed to save much of the structure along with the twin bell towers at the back of the cathedral. Luckily, many famous artifacts, including the Crown of Thorns believed to be worn by Jesus while he was crucified, were also saved before the fire was able to damage them.

Photographs released Tuesday show the interior surprisingly less damaged than most expected from the massive fire.  Although much of the roof has been reduced to rubble, most of the stone frame of the building remains standing.

The people of Paris remain resilient along with their beloved cathedral and French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed that it will be rebuilt.  Already, some of the richest families in France, along with the French Government, have donated hundreds of millions of dollars towards the rebuild.  

This unexpected tragedy shocked the people of Paris, yet it also turned a switch inside of them.  They are now entirely committed to raising Notre Dame once again, calling for a massive piece of their history to be restored.  It is only in dark times when a country’s resilience shines through.