Cause of Notre Dame Fire May Have Been ‘Computer Glitch’

By Zachary Stieber

The rector of Notre Dame said that the cathedral in Paris may have been burned by a fire started by a “computer glitch.”

The fire burned through the lattice of enormous oak beams supporting the monument’s vaulted stone ceiling, dangerously weakening the building. The surrounding neighborhood has since been blocked off, and stones have continued to tumble off the sides of the cathedral since the devastating blaze on April 15.

Speaking during a meeting of local business owners, rector Patrick Chauvet did not elaborate on the exact nature of the “computer glitch,” adding that “we may find out what happened in two or three months.”

Chauvet’s comments came after a judicial police official speaking on condition of anonymity said on Thursday that Paris investigators think an electrical short-circuit most likely caused the fire.

An image made available by Gigarama.ru on April 17, 2019, shows an aerial shot of the fire damage to Notre Dame cathedral in Paris on April 16. (Gigarama.ru via AP)

The official said that investigators made an initial assessment of the cathedral Wednesday but didn’t have a green light to search Notre Dame’s charred interior because of ongoing safety hazards.

The prosecutor’s office said in a brief statement that “all leads must be explored.”

The office told CNN on Wednesday that 10 people were interviewed by criminal investigators on Wednesday and another 30 had already been questioned. In addition, forensics teams and the police’s lab team had been able to access some of the site.

While police are pursuing the theory that the cause of the fire is accidental, a preliminary theory developed shortly after the blaze was extinguished, they have not ruled out the fire being started on purpose.

“While the prosecutor’s office does not rule out any hypothesis, we remind that at this stage, nothing in the investigations highlights a criminal origin. Accidental causes remain our privileged lead,” the prosecutor’s office said.

Notre Dame cathedral is pictured in Paris on April 18, 2019. (Michel Euler/AP Photo)

Attacks on Christian Churches

While prosecutors have noted that there are no indications that the fire was started on purpose, others have pointed out the rash of recent attacks on Christian churches in France.

According to ABC International, 12 churches in France were desecrated in just one week in March. The Ministry of Interior said that there were 1,063 anti-Christian incidents in 2018 compared with 183 anti-semitic actions and 100 anti-Muslim acts.

“Hate has no place in the Republic. We are determined to protect all French, protect secularism, freedom not to believe, like to believe, with respect, safely. These numbers show that we must not let our guard down. Anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, anti-Christian, racist, xenophobic: it is no small achievement, no small insult. Nothing will be tolerated: every culprit will have to be found and judged,” Christophe Castaner, minister of the interior, said in a statement.

One of the iconic stained glass windows of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, on April 17, 2019. (Francois Mori/AP Photo)

Sydney’s Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher told radio host Alan Jones following the Notre Dame fire that after hearing of the recent “catalog of fires … it really struck me that we are, in some ways, under siege.”

“In a sense, Christians are always under siege, even when they are very popular in the world. We have our own spiritual battles to fight,” he said. “Particularly at this time, we know there are those in the world who are opposed to all religion or opposed to our religion and it looks like some of them are determined to make that clear by burning down our buildings.”

“I hope that’s not what was behind what happened at Notre Dame Cathedral,” he added.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.