Notre Dame Cathedral Is Burning

 

This is a fast-moving story, and absolutely devastating development during Holy Week. The BBC reports:

A fire has broken out at the famous Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris, firefighters say.
The cause is not yet clear, but officials say it could be linked to renovation work.
Images on social media show plumes of smoke billowing into the air above the the 850-year-old Gothic building.

Update: 8:23PM in Paris

Shep Smith on Fox News just reported that Paris fire fighters are just now beginning to get water on Notre Dame nearly three hours after the blaze was first reported.

Update 8:26PM in Paris

Notre Dame Spokesman: “Entire wooden interior of cathedral is burning, likely to be destroyed. Everything is burning. Nothing will remain from the frame.”

Update 9:12PM in Paris

The fire has spread to one of the two iconic bell towers, according to reports.

Published in Culture, History
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  1. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Kozak (View Comment):

    Max Ledoux (View Comment):
    Not sure about the planes. That’s more for wildfires I think. They dump over a long area with little accuracy. But seems like helicopters could be used to take water from the Seine (Notre Dame is on an island, for those who don’t know) and dump it on the cathedral.

    I guess this technology is beyond the French?

    No, but they would have needed to be rigged for it already or be capable of getting rigged at a moment’s notice.

    • #61
  2. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    I tend to think that if they could have put it out, they would have put it out. 

    • #62
  3. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Manny (View Comment):

    Je vous salue, Marie, pleine de grâces, le Seigneur est avec vous; vous ętes bénie entre toutes les femmes, et Jésus le fruit de vos entrailles, est béni. Sainte Marie, Mčre de Dieu, priez pour nous pécheurs, maintenant, et ŕ l’heure de notre mort. Amen.

     

     

    How beautiful the prayer is in French. :-)

     

     

     

    • #63
  4. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    EDs & All,

    A symbol of freedom & joy.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #64
  5. YouCantMeanThat Coolidge
    YouCantMeanThat
    @michaeleschmidt

    She (View Comment):

    Locke On (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    Max Ledoux (View Comment):

    It took hours for the fire fighters to start fighting this fire. Did they not have a contingency plan for the possibility that Notre Dame caught fire?

    Don’t know what the story is on that. What they’ve said to this point is that it was rush hour, the streets were clogged and that it took time for them to clear the area. It seemed to take a very long time, though.

    Also, there were/are supposed to be water tanks in the roof in case of exactly this. Between the two roof sections, I think.

    Have to say that I think Trump’s idea of water-tanker planes was quite a good one. Pick it up in the Seine, dump it on the cathedral. Not sure why it took them so long.

    Most of the burnable structural material in a medieval cathedral is above the interior vaulting (stone) and below the upper roof (usually lead and/or copper sheets). Centuries old wood and dry as dust. Once there’s a fire established in there, getting any sort of access for fighting it, in a reasonably safe manner is going to be well-nigh impossible.

    I worry about this for my favorite cathedral in all the world, Worcester Cathedral in the English Midlands. The attic of Worcester Cathedral contains an absolutely priceless and irreplaceable collection of Medieval manuscripts and artifacts. A dozen or so years ago, Mr. She and I had the extraordinary privilege of a guided tour of same, by the Librarian, a gift from my sister who is a “Friend” of the Cathedral. It was the experience of a lifetime, but I couldn’t help but think that a fire in the roof (just the sort of situation you describe, in terms of centuries old wood, dry as dust), could be devastating.

    You won’t need to worry about water damage, anyway — the UKers definitely consider sprinklers “UnBritish.”

    • #65
  6. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):
    Have to say that I think Trump’s idea of water-tanker planes was quite a good one. Pick it up in the Seine, dump it on the cathedral. Not sure why it took them so long.

    From what I’m reading, the planes are too far away, even if they could help.

    I see what you did there.

    • #66
  7. Al Sparks Thatcher
    Al Sparks
    @AlSparks

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    Horrible.

    When I was there a few years ago, I was struck by the din of the tourists inside. It was like a high school hall between periods.

    I found that to be the case too.  However, while I was there, they held a mass.  It was a low key affair, presumably since it was a weekday.  The worshippers looked to be locals.

    • #67
  8. Marley's Ghost Coolidge
    Marley's Ghost
    @MarleysGhost

    My heart has been in my throat.  I was last there back in 2002 and she was a somber old dame then.  It is a piteous sight but made moreso by the reality that the care of it had fallen by the wayside.  

    • #68
  9. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    The world is not the same as it was yesterday.

    My heart is full of sadness.

    • #69
  10. Al Sparks Thatcher
    Al Sparks
    @AlSparks

    She (View Comment):

    Max Ledoux (View Comment):

    It took hours for the fire fighters to start fighting this fire. Did they not have a contingency plan for the possibility that Notre Dame caught fire?

    Don’t know what the story is on that. What they’ve said to this point is that it was rush hour, the streets were clogged and that it took time for them to clear the area. It seemed to take a very long time, though.

    Also, there were/are supposed to be water tanks in the roof in case of exactly this. Between the two roof sections, I think.

    Have to say that I think Trump’s idea of water-tanker planes was quite a good one. Pick it up in the Seine, dump it on the cathedral. Not sure why it took them so long.

    There will be an investigation, no doubt.  However, fire tactics are such that you don’t start doing a “surround and drown” until the roof collapses and you can actually get water to the seat of the fire.  Before then, you set up a perimeter to ensure the fire doesn’t spread to the other buildings in the area.

    It also may have been too risky to make entry (i.e send firefighters into the building) before that happened.

    • #70
  11. Quietpi Member
    Quietpi
    @Quietpi

    Neither fixed-wing nor helicopters would have been effective on this fire, even if they were rigged and instantly available – and I would be shocked if they were.  It’s Northern Hemisphere, and people are just now starting to gear up for the coming fire season.  They may not even have pilots available with the necessary training and certificates for this very dangerous work.

    Fixed wing aircraft are usually used to “paint” a sort of fire line ahead of the head of a wildfire.  There is no head in a structure fire, and the retardant, which falls as a sort of mist, would have evaporated before reaching any burning or burnable surface.  It would have absorbed a little heat of course, but not enough to make any difference.  

    Helicopters can dump water on a particular spot, but I don’t know how effective that would be on such a large structure fire.  To be sure, operating a helicopter directly over such an intense heat source would be… interesting.  I’ve experienced retardant drops on the ground, but never at the other end.  Any pilots want to comment?

    BTW when it comes to fire fighting, the French have been pretty darn good in the past.  

    • #71
  12. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    To all,

    From Claire’s twitter feed.

    UPDATE: Head of the Paris Fire Brigade Jean-Claude Gallet says 2/3 of the cathedral’s roof is gone, but the most precious art has been safeguarded.

    He says the risk is now centered on the North tower. If the bells fall, so will the tower

    https://twitter.com/claireberlinski?lang=en

    This isn’t over yet.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #72
  13. Shauna Hunt Inactive
    Shauna Hunt
    @ShaunaHunt

    My heart is mourning with you, my friends.

    • #73
  14. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    They may try to rebuild but it will never be the same. I doubt they could find enough skilled artisans around the world to truly restore her.

    • #74
  15. Quietpi Member
    Quietpi
    @Quietpi

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    She (View Comment):
    Have to say that I think Trump’s idea of water-tanker planes was quite a good one. Pick it up in the Seine, dump it on the cathedral. Not sure why it took them so long.

    BTW @she, the last I knew, fixed-wing air tankers that can re-fill themselves have fallen out of favor.  The operation itself is crazy dangerous, has big limitations (you have to have miles of straight, clear water, etc.) and plain water isn’t nearly as good as the retardant mixes they can load at an airport.  And of course that requires infrastructure, stocks and highly trained ground crews standing around, to make that practical.  

    • #75
  16. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    EJHill (View Comment):

    They may try to rebuild but it will never be the same. I doubt they could find enough skilled artisans around the world to truly restore her.

    You’d be surprised, actually.  The Frauenkirche in Dresden sat a bombed out ruin for 40 years, as the communists wanted her left as war rubble.  So reconstruction didn’t start until after reunification. She’s back in use today, and when I saw her in ’93 there was nothing there but charred stone and 4 broken support pillars.  If there is enough will, and enough funding, I’m sure they will pull it off.

    Where I can see some delays would be in attempting to put in some modernizations to fire suppression, along with other safety measures, and to put those in without compromising the character of the place.

    • #76
  17. Nerina Bellinger Inactive
    Nerina Bellinger
    @NerinaBellinger

    I offer this comment as a Catholic.  I am heart broken.  I have been in tears since I first heard about the fire.  I had the great privilege of visiting the Cathedral 6 years ago when my son’s youth orchestra toured Paris and Normandy.  The majesty, grandeur and power of the building – in spite of the din accurately noted by James above – cannot be overstated. 

    We are told that buildings will crumble, “mountains may fall” and “hills turn to dust” but faith stands firm.  I don’t feel so secure today.  The symbolism of the arguably the greatest Cathedral in flames during Holy Week in the year of such scandal is too great to dismiss casually or to not ponder more deeply.  I believe, G-d is speaking to us.  May we have ears to hear Him.

    • #77
  18. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily
    @tigerlily

    It’s very sad to witness this disaster.

    Regarding the fighting of the fire – this guy seems to know what he’s talking about.

    • #78
  19. Nerina Bellinger Inactive
    Nerina Bellinger
    @NerinaBellinger

    There is a word us Catholic liturgy geeks like to throw around: ineffable.  It means, basically, something so great as to defy words.  The loss to our culture, civilization and world is ineffable.  Mother Mary, Notre Dame, pray for us, your poor banished children of Eve.  

    • #79
  20. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    Quietpi (View Comment):

    Neither fixed-wing nor helicopters would have been effective on this fire, even if they were rigged and instantly available – and I would be shocked if they were. It’s Northern Hemisphere, and people are just now starting to gear up for the coming fire season. They may not even have pilots available with the necessary training and certificates for this very dangerous work.

    Fixed wing aircraft are usually used to “paint” a sort of fire line ahead of the head of a wildfire. There is no head in a structure fire, and the retardant, which falls as a sort of mist, would have evaporated before reaching any burning or burnable surface. It would have absorbed a little heat of course, but not enough to make any difference.

    Helicopters can dump water on a particular spot, but I don’t know how effective that would be on such a large structure fire. To be sure, operating a helicopter directly over such an intense heat source would be… interesting. I’ve experienced retardant drops on the ground, but never at the other end. Any pilots want to comment?

    BTW when it comes to fire fighting, the French have been pretty darn good in the past.

    And would dropping large quantities of water from a significant height do more damage than good (knock out the outer walls, etc.)?

    • #80
  21. She Member
    She
    @She

    Vance Richards (View Comment):

    Quietpi (View Comment):

    Neither fixed-wing nor helicopters would have been effective on this fire, even if they were rigged and instantly available – and I would be shocked if they were. It’s Northern Hemisphere, and people are just now starting to gear up for the coming fire season. They may not even have pilots available with the necessary training and certificates for this very dangerous work.

    Fixed wing aircraft are usually used to “paint” a sort of fire line ahead of the head of a wildfire. There is no head in a structure fire, and the retardant, which falls as a sort of mist, would have evaporated before reaching any burning or burnable surface. It would have absorbed a little heat of course, but not enough to make any difference.

    Helicopters can dump water on a particular spot, but I don’t know how effective that would be on such a large structure fire. To be sure, operating a helicopter directly over such an intense heat source would be… interesting. I’ve experienced retardant drops on the ground, but never at the other end. Any pilots want to comment?

    BTW when it comes to fire fighting, the French have been pretty darn good in the past.

    And would dropping large quantities of water from a significant height do more damage than good (knock out the outer walls, etc.)?

    I wondered that too. They’re now talking about the bell towers, and saying that if they go, and the bells fall, that’s what will happen anyway. I don’t know the answer. Just wish there had been a better one.

    • #81
  22. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Police drone photo.

    • #82
  23. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Nerina Bellinger (View Comment):

    There is a word us Catholic liturgy geeks like to throw around: ineffable. It means, basically, something so great as to defy words. The loss to our culture, civilization and world is ineffable. Mother Mary, Notre Dame, pray for us, your poor banished children of Eve.

    Notre Dame is an icon of Christendom, now in rubble and ashes. There’s definitely a message there. 

    • #83
  24. TES Inactive
    TES
    @TonySells

    President Trump should ask the Catholic and Protestant churches in our country to take a separate collection this Easter Sunday for rebuilding the Cathedral in Paris and make a personal donation himself.

    I bet our citizens would rally and donate millions. 

    • #84
  25. Roberto, Crusty Old Timer Inactive
    Roberto, Crusty Old Timer
    @Roberto

     

     

    • #85
  26. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    To all,

    https://twitter.com/meforum/status/1117885785594667008

    Middle East Forum
    @meforum
    In virtually every instance of church attacks, authorities and media obfuscate the identity of the vandals. In those rare instances when the Muslim identity of the destroyers is leaked, desecraters are then presented as suffering from mental health issues

    The question is can the government be trusted to honestly investigate or would they suppress if they actually find evidence of foul play?

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #86
  27. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    To all,

    More from Claire’s twitter feed.

    Claire Berlinski
    @ClaireBerlinski

    No idea when my father will be allowed to go back. He’s walked past that cathedral every day for twenty years. He’s sleeping in my bed now, I’m in the attic. I wonder if the fumes are toxic? There’s a lot of lead in that building.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #87
  28. Guruforhire Inactive
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    Hopefully St. Chapel is OK.

    • #88
  29. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    I’m saddened. I’ve always wanted to visit Paris and see the great cathedral. Seems so many others who might share that dream have lost it, and those who have seen and loved her are in greater loss. What a terrible thing.

    • #89
  30. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Kozak (View Comment):

    Police drone photo.

    that looks like hell

    • #90
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