Cigarette Butts Found at Notre Dame After Massive Fire

Zachary Stieber
By Zachary Stieber
April 25, 2019Worldshare
Cigarette Butts Found at Notre Dame After Massive Fire
A damaged section of Notre Dame Cathedral, a week after a massive fire devastated large parts of the Gothic structure in Paris, on April 23, 2019. (Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters)

Investigators probing the origin of the massive fire at the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris have found multiple cigarette butts littered around the site, despite a ban on smoking.

Le Bras Frères, the company in charge of renovating Notre Dame, admitted that some of its workers ignored the ban and were smoking around the cathedral, reported BFM-TV.

“There are workers who from time to time have ignored this ban and we regret it,” a company spokesman said.

Seven butts were found around the cathedral, reported Le Canard Enchaîné.

Marc Eskenazi, the company spokesman, told BFM that it was “out of the question” that the cigarette butts sparked the fire. “Anyone who has ever tried to light a chimney fire knows that putting a cigarette butt to an oak log, not much of anything will happen,” he said.

Notre Dame cathedral on fire
Flames and smoke rise from the blaze after the spire toppled over on Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, on April 15, 2019. (Thierry Mallet/AP Photo)

He later added that the blaze started inside the building, seemingly freeing his workers from being implicated.

“We condemn it. But the fire started inside the building … so for company Le Bras this is not a hypothesis, it was not a cigarette butt that set Notre-Dame de Paris on fire,” Eskenazi told Reuters.

A source close to the investigation told Reuters that the remains of seven butts were found inside the cathedral.

Eskenazi questioned how the butts could have survived the blaze.

NTD Photo
Smoke rises inside Notre Dame Cathedral as a fire continues to burn in Paris on April 16, 2019. (Philippe Wojazer/Reuters)

“If cigarette butts have survived the inferno, I do not know what material they were made of,” he said.

The Paris prosecutor’s office has said it is exploring all possibilities, including arson, though it said there are no indications that the fire was started on purpose.

The rector of the cathedral said earlier this month that the blaze may have started from a “computer glitch,” though he didn’t elaborate on the exact nature of the glitch.

“We may find out what happened in two or three months,” rector Patrick Chauvet added.

NTD Photo
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)

A French police official speaking on condition of anonymity said that an electrical short-circuit likely caused the blaze.

Eskenazi, the renovation company spokesman, also ruled out the fire starting by an electrical incident sparked at one of the two elevators on site, according to Reuters.

“The lifts’ electricity was perfectly within specifications and well maintained,” he said, noting workers had cut power to the lifts when they left the site at 5:50 p.m.

In recent days, the investigation has turned to safety violations and a lack of preparedness, French agency France 24 reported, citing a report in Le Canard Enchaîné.

In a story reconstructing the events, the investigative outlet said that the last Mass of the day was underway at 6:16 p.m. when a light went off on the fire alarm panel at the cathedral’s security control center. The light indicated that smoke had been detected in the attic.

NTD Photo
A worker stands between wooden planks on Notre Dame Cathedral on April 24, 2019, in Paris. Professional mountain climbers were hired to install synthetic, waterproof tarps over the gutted, exposed exterior of Notre Dame Cathedral, as authorities raced to prevent further damage ahead of storms that are rolling in toward Paris. (Thibault Camus)

Seeing the light, the site manager and a guard went to check while clergy conducting the service was notified.

Five minutes later, an alarm sounded, prompting everyone to exit the church. Just minutes later, they were let back in after no fire was found.

According to the report, the site manager and guards blamed the fire not being found on a security control center employee who was working as a subcontractor from the consulting firm Elitys, claiming he sent them to the wrong part of the attic, an accusation that Elitys has denied.

A second alarm blared at 6:30 p.m., prompting an evacuation, and the site manager and guard located the flames in the attic at the base of the spire, which later toppled, between 6:40 p.m. and 6:50 p.m. A call was placed to the Paris Fire Brigade at 6:51 p.m., 35 minutes after the fire was first detected.

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