Notre Dame Cathedral was 'incredibly flammable' because of all-wood frame made from 1,300 trees
The fire that broke out at the iconic Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris shortly before 18:50 CEST on Monday, April 15, has caused significant damage to the building and is expected to cost hundreds of millions to renovate.
The Cathedral's spire and roof collapsed — two-thirds of the roof is believed to have been destroyed while the entirety of the spire was snapped falling off just after the blaze broke out — and considerable damage was done to the interior, upper walls, and windows of the church, as well as numerous works of art. The two bell towers, however, were saved.
It had taken less than an hour for a fire which reportedly broke out from an attic in the building to spread across its roof and topple its 300-foot spire, though the stone ceiling vault beneath the roof prevented most of the fire from falling into the interior below.
But how did a fire grow to such disastrous proportions? According to Daily Mail, it had to do with the historic cathedral's all-wood frame which earned it the nickname of 'The Forest'. In fact, the entire frame of the 850-year-old building is made from timber, with it estimated that 1,300 trees were used in the construction of this frame.
The official website for the Cathedral states that the frame includes roughly 52-acres of wood in total and that the timber beams make up its entire interior frame, and serves as the foundation for its 115-foot-high roof.
Notre Dame contributor Daniel Christian even noted as the fire raged on that it made sense that the Cathedral was "incredibly flammable", and the fear was that nothing of the centuries-old building would remain. The prognosis at the time was so bad, that Andre Finot, a Notre Dame spokesman, even told media outlets, "Everything is burning, nothing will remain from the frame."
But thanks to the efforts of firefighters — one of whom was seriously injured while fighting the blaze — the damage was ultimately limited. "We can now say that the structure of Notre-Dame has been saved from total destruction," said the firefighting team. An official similarly confirmed to AFP that the main structure was "saved and preserved."
Speaking about the fire, Vincent Dunn, a fire consultant and former New York City fire chief told the New York Times, "These cathedrals and houses of worship are built to burn. If they weren’t houses of worship, they’d be condemned."
Indeed, the building's age-old wooden foundation had been a concern for quite some time and was the subject of a $6.8 million renovation project that looked to address some of the most glaring issues. This luckily meant that statues overlooking the cathedral had been removed just last week ahead of work on the spire.