THE DAILY BEAST:
An alarm was raised at Notre Dame at 6:20 p.m. on Monday night—23 minutes before the structure was engulfed in flames—but officials found no sign of a fire.
Firefighters who responded to a second alert raced to the scene but were unable to tame an inferno that ripped through the 12th century cathedral for the next 9 hours.
Once the flames were extinguished, there was a sense of relief that many of the ancient artefacts had been saved but the integrity of the Gothic stone building could still be unstable. Two-thirds of the timber roof is gone—it had been crafted from more than 13,000 oak trees, an entire forest reduced to kindling. Preliminary images of the devastated interior reveal a gaping hole where the 300-foot wooden spire once stood and smoke rising from the ashes of burning pews.
Paris public prosecutor Rémy Heitz announced on Tuesday that a full investigation would uncover how a massive fire was allowed to gut the cathedral.
“What we know at this stage is that there was an initial alarm at 6:20 p.m., followed by a procedure to verify this but no fire as found,” Heitz explained. “Then, there was a second alarm at 6:43 p.m. and at that point a fire was detected in the structure.”
“The investigation is going to be long and complex,” he added. “We are in the process of interviewing witnesses.”
In the morning rain early Tuesday, Parisians and visitors gathered on the banks of the Seine to mourn the loss of a landmark that, for many, was personal. “This is a very meaningful spot for me,” said Heidi Waterfall, an American living in in Paris. “I feel a strong spiritual power when I go inside. I feel peace and joy.”