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The collapsing spire and roof of Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral engulfed in flames on April 15, 2019
Image: Getty Images/AFP/G. van der Hasselt

Notre Dame: No evidence of arson in April blaze

June 26, 2019

Authorities suspect that faulty wiring or a burning cigarette may have caused the devastating blaze, but they cannot say with certainty. Still, they are confident that the fire was not intentionally lit.


Prosecutors in Paris said on Wednesday that a preliminary investigation into the origins of the April 15 blaze that destroyed the roof and spire of the city's landmark medieval Notre Dame Cathedral did not suggest criminal activity.

Read more: Future of Notre Dame Cathedral wide open

"For now there are no indications of a criminal origin," Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said in a statement. Heitz added, "The investigations carried out to date have not yet been able to determine the causes of the fire."

Investigation ongoing

The preliminary investigation, based on 100 witness interviews, did not draw specific conclusions as to the cause of the fire but suggested faulty electrical wiring or a smoldering cigarette may have sparked the blaze.

Heitz's office said that "further investigations, using significant expertise, will now be undertaken."

The ongoing investigations will be led by three magistrates, all of whom will have the power to press charges against individuals or companies determined to be negligent.

Read more: Opinion: Notre Dame is a symbol of Europe

A representative from La Bras Freres, a scaffolding company working on the historical landmark at the time the fire tore through the 12th-century oak lattice supporting the Gothic cathedral's roof, ruled out the cigarette theory in April.

Although he admitted that employees occasionally smoked on site, he said, "no way could a cigarette butt be the cause of the fire at Notre Dame."

The devastating fire began on the evening of April 15, destroying the roof and spire of the building before firefighters could put it out hours later.

Fragile structure

Though the building's historical bell towers and facade were saved, the structure is considered fragile. That fact, along with contamination from large amounts of lead from the melted roof, has slowed clean-up work. 

Read more: Opinion: Notre Dame will rise again

The site has been closed to the public since April; however, a Mass commemorating its consecration was celebrated by a group of 30 priests and church employees, all of whom wore hard hats, on June 16.

French President Emmanuel Macron has promised that the iconic landmark will be restored to its former glory within five years, yet experts say it could take much longer.

France: Notre Dame After the Fire

js/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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