April 16, 2019

"[A] first fire alarm was triggered at 6:20 p.m. Monday, but that no fire was found after checks were carried out... A second alarm was triggered at 6:43 p.m...."

"... and a fire was found under the roof in a network of wooden beams, many dating from the Middle Ages, that is nicknamed 'the forest.' [Rémy Heitz, the Paris prosecutor] said that investigators were working off the hypothesis that the fire was an accident."

The NYT reports. Also: "The cathedral’s rector, Msgr. Patrick Chauvet, told the radio station France Inter that the cathedral had fire monitors who checked the wooden framework under the roof three times a day."

I'd like to know more about what happened between 6:20 p.m. and 6:43. Is there some kind of slow, undetectable burning that could take place in "the forest" and become so well established that, at the point at which it could be found, it would be unstoppable? If there is such a thing, did the fire experts know it and necessarily accept it?

85 comments:

rhhardin said...

It might be a burning bush thing.

Or planted incendiary things. Cigarette across closed matchbook, put there and there. It catches on or it extinguishes itself, until one finally takes.

David Begley said...

The police are already calling this an accident. Has every single construction worker been interviewed? I doubt it.

tim in vermont said...

It does sound like an accelerant, but then, why would we think that anybody would want to burn down that cathedral? It’s just conspiracy nonsense, not even worth investigating!

The probable attack was uncovered in Paris on Sunday morning, at about 7 a.m., but the average citizen did not hear about it until Wednesday when French news outlets reported it as the confiscation of a car filled with seven propane tanks on a street near Notre Dame cathedral.

No detonators or other explosive devices were found inside, but documents in Arabic were.
. - The Daily Beast 9-08-2016

rhhardin said...

God's motive was not immediately clear.

AllenS said...

Fires just don't start. There is a reason that fires start.

Tank said...

Suggestion: collect evidence first, form hypothesis second.

Tommy Duncan said...

What triggered the two alarms? Something was taking place that caused their concerns.

Jon Burack said...

Well, I am no conspiracy theorist, but "accident" is indeed premature. This, however, is not. I get articles from Middle East Forum. This one came in a day BEFORE the fire at Notre Dame.

https://www.meforum.org/58238/european-churches

I will await a more deliberate investigation on this.

rhhardin said...

It might have been youths.

clint said...

This seems troubling: "... investigators were working off the hypothesis that the fire was an accident."

I'd much rather hear that they were keeping an open mind, this early in the investigation.

tim in vermont said...

Suggestion: collect evidence first, form hypothesis second.

Well, arson has already been ruled out by their government, so all we have now is idle speculation based on the evidence that is available to us, which includes previous attempts to burn it down.

rhhardin said...

Fires in France start from politically correct causes.

My name goes here. said...

Give'em a break, I mean the Police have a hunch about what happened.

zipity said...

France is so far gone, if they found Islamic graffiti where the fire started, I fully believe they would cover up any evidence it was intentional to prevent "Islamophobia".

Henry said...

My parents' church burned to the ground while in the midst of a renovation. The arsonist was a disgruntled carpenter.

OTOH, a renovation seems a very likely time for an accidental fire to start. Parts of the church that were rarely visited now are being traversed by laborers. People are working in the recesses with power tools.

Chuck said...

The Palace of Westminster (UK Parliament and House of Lords) burned in 1843, as depicted in a famous JMW Turner masterpiece. It was rebuilt.

It was targeted and nearly destroyed by German bombers in 1940-41. And again rebuilt.

It was even targeted by the IRA in 1974, and repaired.

Notre Dame will be rebuilt, and beautifully.

tim in vermont said...

People are working in the recesses with power tools.

Seems like the kind of detail that should be forthcoming soon, if true, that there were extension cords scattered through “the forest,” for example.

tim in vermont said...

Weird though that no mention was made of workmen when the fire patrol checked things out.

tim maguire said...

Doesn't the alarm tell you where the suspected fire is? From there, you should be able to inspect every inch. I mean, it was enough to set off an alarm, they should have been able to smell smoke.

Would a dyslexic arsonist pull the alarm first and then set the fire?

rhhardin said...

Lots of talk of treasures in the newscasts. It's either virtue signalling or a lot more people care about it than I'd imagine.

tim maguire said...

Chuck said...Notre Dame will be rebuilt, and beautifully.

I suspect this time around they will have unlimited funds gathered from around the world.

tim in vermont said...

Video showed that scaffolding around the base of the spire, part of extensive renovations that were underway, was one of the first places to visibly catch fire.. - NYT

MikeR said...

"The cathedral’s rector, Msgr. Patrick Chauvet, told the radio station France Inter that the cathedral had fire monitors who checked the wooden framework under the roof three times a day." Huh? Fire monitors? Do they frequently have small fires all over the place that the fire monitors notice? Seems unlikely that the structure would have lasted hundreds of years in that case.
Fire monitor doesn't sound like a real job. How careful would a "fire monitor" be on the ten thousandth inspection? Nope, not burning again... Three times a day. Because a fire can take eight hours to really take hold.
Maybe his job was to chase away the workers who kept sneaking up under the rafters for a smoke.
Just sounds like the kind of nonsense someone came up with to explain why this wasn't his fault.

Laslo Spatula said...

Two white guys with MAGA hats were seen in the vicinity.

By a restoration worker eating a Subway sandwich.

I am Laslo.

rhhardin said...

The roof was made of fossil fuels. Huge footprint.

tim in vermont said...

Broken gargoyles and fallen balustrades had been replaced by plastic pipes and wooden planks. Such areas may have been particularly vulnerable to the flames and falling debris. - NYT

They never ever should have taken down the gargoyles, which were there to protect the church from evil doers!

Rory said...

It could be that the alarms go off quite often, and they have a routine of check, find nothing, and reset. If the system can smell smoke at levels humans can't smell, or can't get to, you're always going to be one alarm behind.

Amadeus 48 said...

Nothing from the first two or three days after an incident proves to be very accurate at the end.

The French, unlike the English, are pretty robust about defending their culture.

By the way, just because they say they are treating it as an accident doesn't mean that they are treating it as an accident.

Stay tuned. Things will change down the road.

iowan2 said...

Why the lack of live pictures today? It is 2:44 pm Paris time. I have yet to catch any live video in the 2+ hours TV has been on in my house. Just seems strange we aren't seeing the same shots we looked at overnight, now in daylight hours to get a sense of the loss.

zipity said...


Although it is believed to be accidental, a rough looking hunchback was seen fleeing the area.....

M Jordan said...

Key to interpreting news these days:

-If they immediately say it was an accident, it wasn’t an accident
-If they say “Both sides do it,” Democrats do it
-If they don’t give the race of the suspect, it wasn’t a white guy
-If it’s good news on the economy, it preceded Trump
-If it’s bad news on the economy, Trump owns it

rhhardin said...

I don't have any treasures myself. Perhaps they migrate into old buildings.

gilbar said...

investigators were working off the hypothesis that the fire was an accident.

Just like the investigators at Fort Hood were working off the hypothesis that the shooting was workplace violence

whitney said...

It's the tenth church fire this year in France. I'm sure it's a coincidence.

And just for a fun thought experience. Imagine if it was a mosque that was burned and how the media would be reacting. 10 mosques!

rhhardin said...

Burning the library of Alexandria was an actual big deal.

Roughcoat said...

Is there some kind of slow, undetectable burning that could take place in "the forest" and become so well established that, at the point at which it could be found, it would be unstoppable?

Read about the Our Lady of Angels school fire in Chicago on December 1, 1958 -- a watershed event in Chicago history, one many of us who were alive at the time still remember with sorrow and horror.

The Wikipedia entry on the fire is quite good, and explains a fire can burn undetected for quite some time in a hidden part of an old building, growing stronger and more deadly with each passing minute.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Lady_of_the_Angels_School_fire

daskol said...

It would appear that rhhardin is not a Catholic.

rhhardin said...

It's possible that the caring about it audience is the one being sought. Cathedral click.

The actual market could be a pretty small part of the population.

Birches said...

I guess I'm not as conspiracy minded as you all. I saw the scaffolding and assumed it was an accident. I guess I understand the distrust of French authorities, but the French are not all that Muslim friendly. They banned the burka. They care a lot about French culture. I just don't see cover up.

rhhardin said...

The question is can the not-caring part of the population be intimidated into pretending to care instead of ridiculing the news coverage tone.

daskol said...

Ken Follet fans, fans of Medieval Art, Society for Creative Anachronism and RenFaire types, garden variety Francophiles. Bigger, more diverse group than you may suppose.

Wince said...

Nobody has blamed "Trump's rhetoric" for this church fire... yet?

rhhardin said...

It's not a conspiracy, just normal operation. About Islam nothing but good is said, or you lose your job.

Roughcoat said...

Excerpts from Wikipedia on the OLA ("Our Lady of Angels") school fire:

The fire began in the basement of the older north wing between about 2:00 p.m. and 2:20 p.m CST. Classes were due to be dismissed at 3:00 p.m. Ignition took place in a cardboard trash barrel located a few feet from the northeast stairwell. The fire smoldered undetected for approximately 20 minutes, gradually heating the stairwell and filling it with a light grey smoke that later would become thick and black, as other combustibles became involved. At the same time, it began sending superheated air and gases into an open pipe chase very near the source of the fire. The pipe chase made an uninterrupted conduit up to the cockloft above the second-floor classrooms (see "Evacuation" below).... The smoke began to fill the second-floor corridor, but remained unnoticed for a few minutes.

As the fire consumed the northeast stairway, a pipe chase running from the basement to the cockloft above the second floor false ceiling had been feeding superheated gases for some minutes on a direct route to the attic. The building's old roof had been re-coated numerous times, and the tar had become very thick. Consequently, the heat of the fire was not able to burn quickly through the roof. If it had, it would have opened a hole that would have served to vent much of the smoke and gasses. Eventually, as the temperature continued to rise in the enclosed space, the wood of the cockloft itself flashed over.

The fire then swept down through the hallway ceiling's ventilation grates into the second floor corridor as it flashed through the cockloft above the classrooms. Glass transom windows above the doors of each classroom broke as the heat intensified, allowing superheated gasses and thick black smoke in the hallway to enter the classrooms. By the time the students and their teachers in the second floor classrooms realized the danger (and the occupants of several of the rooms, until that moment, did not realize the danger), their sole escape route into the hallway was impassable. The second floor of the north wing had become a perfect fire trap.

rhhardin said...

The fire has sparked an outpouring of grief from around the world, to quote the radio lede.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I assume it was construction related.

These things happen when you are constructing a caliphate...

Birches said...

I'm guessing the alarms were triggered too often to really concern the people checking them. That's a shame.

Francisco D said...

We had a fire in our attic caused by a ventilation fan. It was installed in the late 60's. 30 years later, wires had apparently rubbed off their insulation and sparked the fire. The Fire Department said we were lucky because a similar house several blocks away had burned down from such a fire.

Shit happens.

AllenS said...

If the French scaffolding is anything like my scaffolding, it's all metal. Even if the platforms are made of wooden boards, they are going to be thick and not prone to catch fire.

Roughcoat said...

Ninety-five students and teachers were killed in the OLA fire. It was covered in real-time on live local television, the first time such an event had received such coverage (at least locally). OLA was located in a white-ethnic blue-collar neighborhood on Chicago's West Side. As the fire burned fathers of the trapped students, coming home from their jobs at the end of the work, rushed to the school and stood and watched while their children burned to death in the upper floor classrooms. The fire department was mostly powerless to save the children because of the configuration of the building. I remember turning on our little black-and-white television watching in stunned horror, along with the crowd of parent at the scene, as the conflagration destroyed the school and so many of the young boys and girls trapped inside it.

traditionalguy said...

Amazingly, the FOX Cable News anchors had all been instructed before the fire coverage started to cut off of the air any live interviews that began to mention Muslims are routinely vandalizing French Catholic Churches. Amazingly, the relics in deep storage were all quickly carried out. Amazingly, the Pope was also kept out of it.

I have never seen a better prepared arson job. A suspect would be the atheists struggling to keep France a part of Merkle's EU Order. They could do this one. The Muslim's would not have been smart enough to stage this event.

daskol said...

Sparks caused a fire after which flowed an outpouring of grief and the Cathedral's soul, if not it's roof, was saved.

Anonymous said...

rhhardin: It's possible that the caring about it audience is the one being sought. Cathedral click.

The actual market could be a pretty small part of the population.


But not probable.

It is probable that a sperg with his sperg army knife (tools comprised: one hammer) doesn't have an accurate sense of what people not himself consider an "actual big deal".

Jeff Brokaw said...

I’ll wait for more evidence to come in, but it’s not like there’s zero reason to suspect this is related to the ongoing church vandalism spree throughout France. And I agree with others above who don’t fully trust the French authorities to be honest with their investigation, or at least the public release of information relate to it. .

Curious George said...

"...but the French are not all that Muslim friendly. They banned the burka."

Yeah, they're really knuckling down on this muzzie shit. LOL

There are 2500 mosques and 5 million muzzies in France. What do you think would happen if the government said this was Islamic terrorism?

Leland said...

Smoldering fires tend to produce smoke, which will set of fire alarms, but lack visible flame. In a work zone, a minor smell of smoke and wood may be common, as the act of cutting wood creates these smells. So without a visible flame, other clues may be ignored. Smoke Detectors are usually much more sensitive than our eyes at seeing smoke. However, I would think for something that grew into this fire, the smoke should have been recognizable during a check of the sensor.

More likely, there were many previous false positives fire alarms that workers and custodians started ignoring them as a routine.

Michael K said...

By the time the students and their teachers in the second floor classrooms realized the danger (and the occupants of several of the rooms, until that moment, did not realize the danger), their sole escape route into the hallway was impassable. The second floor of the north wing had become a perfect fire trap.

I remember driving by a school in Glenwood IL, on my way to the golf course nearby, and always thought it interesting that the school had a fire escape that was a metal pipe about 3 feet in diameter from the second floor to the parking lot, It looked like something you see in an amusement park. The slope was maybe 30 degrees.

Anonymous said...

Reading around the news sites I'm coming across interesting stuff about the problems caused by 19th-century restoration materials and techniques. I knew something about the subject re history/art, but nothing from the structural engineering perspective. (E.g., 19th c. cement patchwork makes a really bad neighbor for medieval stonework.)

So on the one hand, getting Viollet-le-Duc'd results in questionable aesthetics and longer-term structural headaches. On the other hand, the great medieval buildings still extant and beloved would likely have all gone the way of Cluny without it.

PatHMV said...

MikeR:

"Fire monitor" is in fact a real thing. Major construction sites often are required to have an in-person fire watch in the terms of their insurance policies. In some jobs, the insurance policy will the personal fire monitor to be replaced with automated camera-based detection systems, but I suspect that the nature of the wooden framing in the cathedral would have made that not very feasible in this instance.

Not a perfect system, but better than not having anything at all.

Dave Begley said...

Subpoena the bitcoin accounts of all the construction workers. Wait! Bitcoin doesn't honor subpoenas.

Twenty years from now some guy is going to be living in Saint Croix.

Fernandinande said...

It is probable that a sperg with his sperg army knife blah blah

Somebody's getting all "spiritual". LOL

If they rebuild Notre Dame they should hire Christopher Robin, who did such a bang-up job on Street Paul's Cathedral.

tim in vermont said...

They care a lot about French culture. I just don't see cover up.

Well, it took weeks for the Germans to admit to the rape spree by “immigrants” that happened at the New Years Eve party in Cologne. Ultimately, it proved impossible to keep over a thousands sexual assault victims silent.

tim in vermont said...

But this does look like an accident, as stuff becomes known. I am reserving the right to keep an open mind.

AllenS said...

I'm also keeping an open mind, and I say it's arson.

tim in vermont said...

Mostly I operate under the assumption that we can only indulge in idle speculation as the powers that be mostly keep us in the dark and feed us bullshit.

Anonymous said...

rhhardin: The question is can the not-caring part of the population be intimidated into pretending to care...

I see you may be recovering from your misapprehension that a definitive guideline on the import or triviality of any given issue is provided by repeating your own feelings on the matter verbatim, a thousand times over.

And you have now moved on to being distressed by something even stupider.

...instead of ridiculing the news coverage tone...

Answer to the question nobody else is asking: nobody's stopping you. Ridicule and be ridiculed in turn.

CWJ said...

Maybe the first alarm was just beeping to tell them to change the battery.

Rae said...

I would readily believe that the fire was accident + incompetence, but the fact that it's Holy Week and that about 20 churches have been set in fire in France the past few weeks does make me wonder.

Basil Duke said...

Michael K., my grade school had the same kind of fire escape. (This would have been in the early '70s.) Off hours, we used it as a playground accessory - climb all the way up and slide back down, hollering and bellowing all the way.

Browndog said...

I'm not going to get sucked into the Gell-Mann amnesia affect. The American nightly news told me firefighters worked feverishly to evacuate construction workers. Hours earlier, French news told me there were no construction workers on site that day.

Media tells me it was not arson, it has been ruled out. If that's the case, the next sentence should be "The cause of the fire was xxxxx." But, no. Nothing.

I'll wait for reliable, verifiable circumstantial evidence to form my own personal hypothesis as to why a cathedral that stood for a millennium could not survive the Age of Macron.

Lydia said...

This just happened last week: "One of three women allegedly involved in a foiled plot in 2016 to blow up a car packed with gas canisters near the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris was on Friday sentenced to eight years in prison by a French court for earlier offences."

Ann Althouse said...

"What triggered the two alarms? Something was taking place that caused their concerns."

Somehow I'm picturing thousands of plastic smoke alarms screwed to the giant ceiling of that "attic."

Ann Althouse said...

That "forest" sounds like something that was a terrible fire hazard. It's amazing that it lasted that long. At least now they can rebuild it up to a modern standard.

I don't think anyone would deliberately try to improve the building by burning out that "forest," but maybe this phase had to happen, and it's over at last and it will facilitate getting the money needed to do what the aborted restoration could not do.

etienne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
daskol said...

That looks like a shoe.

WK said...

Somehow I'm picturing thousands of plastic smoke alarms screwed to the giant ceiling of that "attic."

And since we just had daylight savings clock change day - they should have replaced all the batteries in the smoke alarms.

Fen said...

Chuck: "Notre Dame will be rebuilt, and beautifully."

Why bother? So that French incompetence can lead to it's destruction again? We now understand why the French have this need to constantly remind us how sophisticated they are.

"Trump the amateur fire fighter"

No, the amateurs are the ones who let Notre Dame burn to the ground.

"Dumping water by air would have collapsed the roof"

Maybe. Where is the roof now?

Yancey Ward said...

I don't see how you can possibly determine this was an accident this quickly unless the person who fuct up has come forward with a confession.

William said...

I think it's possible that some clever jihadist could figure out a way to torch a closely patrolled site like Norte Dame. I don't know if it's possible to get fire marshals, church officials, and the French government to work seamlessly together to orchestrate a cover up of a huge terrorist event......,I'd much rather blame terrorists than human error. You can win a war on terrorists, but those human errorists are an implacable foe......One good thing: the sans culottes are not involved in this and will probably contribute heavily for the rebuilding. Let bygones be bygones.

rhhardin said...

In Edge of Tomorrow (2014) they blew up the Louvre and it was regarded as a triumph.

Achilles said...

This is not just happening. There is a lot of shit going on around this.

1. Dozens of churches have been attacked by "youths" in France this year. Hundreds over the last 10 years.

2. The French government is trying to suppress their working class which is revolting against a political class that is trying to replace them with muslim immigrants.

If they allow a report to go out that Muslims tried to burn down the cathedral Macron is done.

Like dinner.

Bhanu said...

I loved the way you express your thoughts and information.
Thanks for the article

Nichevo said...


"Trump the amateur fire fighter"

No, the amateurs are the ones who let Notre Dame burn to the ground.

"Dumping water by air would have collapsed the roof"

Maybe. Where is the roof now?



For the record, yes, a C-130 dumping twenty thousand pounds of fire retardant one run could be too imprecise / overkill. However, they have helicopters and they have shower mode aerial firefighting and be done a lot more precisely when you're not talking about a hundred thousand acres of forest.

Remind me again why it took 2 hours to respond to the blaze? Remind me again why the cathedral was not retrofitted with sprinklers?

Yeah, President Trump is the dummy. Keep telling yourself that over and over and over again, my friend.

Nichevo said...

If they allow a report to go out that Muslims tried to burn down the cathedral Macron is done.


Yeah, maybe, maybe not. As I said earlier, it seems the young people believe it may have been the gilets jaunes. Of course, they also seem to believe that HP is setting their printers to die after 20,000 pages; also that they are sending money to Israel to oppress the Palestinians.

Their yutes/populace may be more brainwashed than ours are. So it may not be possible to educate them. I said to Mike K, back in the aftermath of Bataclan, that I expected to see bodies floating down the Seine, courtesy of GIGN taking steps to find "who sent them" and uproot the jihadist network. But no. This may have happened, but it escaped reportage. So, I would not expect razzias in the Arab quarters. People are gifted - look at Ann - at seeing and hearing what they want and disregarding the rest.

bbear said...

It seems surprising, to say the least, that in a facility considered valuable enough to have provoked this international orgy of grief, no fire suppression system (of the Halon type or its alternatives) had been installed. By way of comparison, St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan now has a state of the art high-pressure water mist system that would activate in the event of a fire.