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Short-Circuit Probably Caused Catastrophic Fire, Official Says

Macron, Paris honor firefighters
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 18, 2019 6:06 PM CDT
Firefighters and security forces who took part to the fire-extinguishing operations at Notre Dame of Paris Cathedral arrive for a ceremony at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Thursday.   (Christophe Petit Tesson, Pool via AP)
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(Newser) – Investigators say an electrical short-circuit was the most likely cause of the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral, a Paris police official said Thursday, as France paid a daylong tribute to the firefighters who saved the world-renowned landmark Monday. A judicial police official told The Associated Press that investigators have made an initial assessment of the cathedral but don't have a green light to search the charred interior because of ongoing safety hazards. The cathedral's fragile walls were being shored up with wooden planks, said the official. The lead roof and soaring spire were destroyed, but the bell towers, rose windows, organ, and artworks were saved. Investigators say the fire appears to have been accidental, and are questioning cathedral staff and workers who were carrying out renovations. Some 40 people had been questioned by Thursday, according to the Paris prosecutor's office.

At the Elysee Palace, President Emmanuel Macron thanked hundreds of firefighters who battled the blaze for nine hours; City Hall honored them with a Bach violin concert and readings from Victor Hugo's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." Jean-Marc Fournier, a chaplain, said he climbed onto altars to remove paintings but was especially proud "to have removed Jesus" from the Cathedral—a reference to the Catholic belief that consecrated hosts are the body of Christ. Myriam Chudzinski and other firefighters reached the roof after climbing a narrow, spiral staircase to the top of one of the towers. "It was from upstairs that you understood that it was really dramatic," she said. "It was very hot, and we had to retreat, retreat. It was spreading quickly."

(Read more Notre Dame Cathedral stories.)

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