Notre Dame cathedral came within minutes of destruction but it is still standing today thanks to the heroic efforts of firefighters, authorities say. Laurent Nunez, France's deputy interior minister, said Tuesday that firefighters risked their lives to save the 850-year-old cathedral during a crucial 15- to 30-minute window of time, the BBC reports. Nunez praised the "courage and determination" of firefighters, who remained inside the burning cathedral to prevent the fire spreading to the building's two towers. The cathedral's roof and spire were destroyed in the blaze. The full extent of the damage is still to be assessed, but many of the priceless relics inside were saved. More:
- A stone "fire door." Medieval architecture expert Tom Nickson says the cathedral's builders also deserve credit for saving the building from fire. The cathedral's stone vault "acted as a kind of fire door between the highly flammable roof and the highly flammable interior," exactly as its 12th-century builders intended, he tells the Guardian.