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Notre Dame fire cause may have been electrical

The investigation is ongoing

Notre Dame on fire
A firefighter uses a hose to douse flames billowing from the roof at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019.
AFP/Getty Images

Investigators are closer to identifying the cause of the devastating fire that damaged Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral on April 15. A judicial police official told reporters this week that investigators think an electrical short circuit may have been the culprit, and that accidental causes remain their main focus.

According to the Associated Press, the Paris prosecutor’s office treated the fire as an accident from the beginning, initially ruling out arson and terror-related motives. The prosecutor’s office believe the fire began in the attic or roof of the building.

Intense scrutiny has fallen on the renovation work as a possible contributing factor to the cause. Four companies were contracted to carry out renovations at the cathedral, but only two had work in progress at the time of the fire. Le Bras Freres is the scaffolding company involved in the renovation and the company said it was cooperating with the investigation.

The Guardian reports that Julian Le Bras said that none of the 12 workers involved in the restoration were at the site when the fire broke out and that workers had left the site an hour before the fire began. Investigators questioned witnesses and 15 construction workers who were at the site on Monday, and on Tuesday at least 30 employees working at the landmark before the fire broke were also interviewed. These included construction workers and Notre Dame security staff.

The police official who told reporters that an electrical circuit could be the cause would not comment on an unsourced report in Le Parisien newspaper that investigators were looking at whether the fire could have been linked to a computer glitch or the temporary elevators used in the renovation work. The prosecutor’s office replied, “All leads must be explored.”

The massive fire that damaged the cathedral broke out in Paris Monday evening, April 15, local time. According to CNBC, a French fire official says the cathedral had been saved from total destruction after nearly four hours of firefighting efforts and the work of 400 firefighters.

Despite what Paris deputy mayor Emmanuel Gregoire called “colossal damages,” including heavy damage to the medieval wooden interior, the loss of two-thirds of the cathedral roof and the spire, and the collapse of much of the vaulted ceiling, many of the priceless relics were saved. This includes the stone structure, including the facade and two bell towers, the trio of round stained glass, the Great Organ, and artifacts such as the crown of thorns and Tunic of Saint Louis.

Some architectural historians and preservation experts suggest it may even take decades for the cathedral to be restored. French President Emanuel Macron has said Notre Dame will be rebuilt, and The Foundation for French Heritage has launched an international fundraising campaign to rebuild, which (combined with other major donations) has raised over $1 billion.