After a major fire engulfed the medieval cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris, destroying much of the almost 900-year-old building, an investigation into the cause is already underway.
While junior interior minister, Laurent Nunez, said it was ‘too early to determine the causes of the fire’, detectives turned their attention to ‘ongoing renovation work at the cathedral’.
They began interviewing specialist restorers from the company Le Bras Freres based in Jarny, in the Meurthe-et-Moselle department of north-eastern France.
Some of its 200 specialist employees were working on the wooden and lead spire of Notre Dame Cathedral that collapsed on Monday evening after the fire broke out on the roof just before 7pm.
The blaze was finally extinguished in the early hours of Tuesday morning after almost 400 firefighters battled the fire for eight hours.
‘Many of these restorers were interviewed overnight,’ said a source close to the investigation that has been opened into ‘accidental destruction by fire’.
‘The fear is that a small fire began in the rood where they were working, and quickly spread across the building.
‘The irony is that the restorers had just begun working on the spire which collapsed along with much of the roof.’
Le Bras Freres is considered to be one of the most respected companies of its kind, and last year finished a widespread restoration programme of Reims Cathedral in eastern France.
It had won the contract to restore the Notre Dame spire that was designed by the architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc and erected in 1859.
They were due to be on site for up to four years along with Europe Scaffolding, another company which had just put 250 tons of scaffolding around Notre Dame, along with a lift that could move up and down the 300ft fire.
On Tuesday morning Julie Le Bras, the CEO of the Bras Brothers, said he had no initial comment on the enquiry.
Attention has turned to the equipment being used by the restorers in a medieval cathedral where light and power sources were limited.
Paris prosecutors have opened a preliminary investigation, and have not yet ruled out any theories for the start of the fire.
An unidentified fire fighter was the only human casualty of the blaze, and he was today in hospital with ‘non life threatening injuries,’ said a spokesman for the Paris emergency services.
Andre Finot, communication manager of the Cathedral: ‘At the moment, we don’t know why the cathedral caught fire.
‘Normally, there should be no more workers on the site because they are supposed to stop between 5 pm and 5:30 pm at the latest. But we are not sure there was no one left on the site’.
Mr Finot confirmed that a 100m crane had just been deployed to take 16 copper statues depicting Apostles and Evangelists off the roof, and all had been saved.The best face masks to soothe, hydrate, brighten and purify
French billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault, who is married to Hollywood actress Salma Hayek, pledged 100 million euros (£86.2 million) towards the rebuilding of the Cathedral.
French President Emmanuel Macron has also vowed to rebuild Notre Dame with help from the international community.
Mr Macron said a national fundraising campaign to restore the historic building would be launched on Tuesday, and he called on the world’s ‘greatest talents’ to help.