It was a sad day when fire engulfed the over 800-year-old cathedral called Notre Dame, a World Heritage Site that is considered one of the most iconic landmarks globally. The fire that broke out at the monumental cathedral in the French capital on Monday, 15th April has left the world stunned.
A fire alarm first wailed inside the Notre Dame Cathedral at 6:20 p.m. Monday, but for 23 critical minutes cathedral staff searched for a blaze, unable to find the cause. It wasn't until a second alarm went off at 6:43 p.m. that a fire was detected in the attic of the centuries-old religious landmark, French officials said Tuesday.
Paris prosecutor Rémy Heitz laid out a timeline of the night's events as his office opened an investigating into the cause of the catastrophic fire that tore through the historic structure, toppling its iconic spire and crumbling much of the monument's roof.
"We are favoring the theory of an accident," Heitz told reporters Tuesday, adding that the investigation into the blaze would be "long" and "complex."
Heitz said the initial alarm, which was looked into by cathedral staff and not firefighters, caused the church to be evacuated but did not lead to the discovery of the fire, according to the Washington Post.
"In the meantime, the church was evacuated because a Mass just started a bit earlier," Heitz said.
Johann Vexo, an organist at the Notre Dame who was inside the cathedral, told French newspaper Ouest-France that he didn't smell or see any smoke or flames when the first alarm went off.
DRONES HELP DOUSE THE FLAMES
Parisian firefighters used DJI drones to track the progression of the Notre Dame fire and to find the best positions to aim fire hoses. By flying DJI Mavic Pro and Matrice M210 drones over the Notre Dame cathedral, firefighters were able to get essential data for taming the flames.
Notre Dame de Paris was severely damaged by the fire that ravaged its roof, spire, stained glass window, and pipe organ. Police say the fire was likely an accident, potentially caused by ongoing renovation work.
Fire brigade spokesman Gabriel Plus told local media that the drones were instrumental in saving the cathedral’s structure. “The drones allowed us to correctly use what we had at our disposal,” Plus said in comments translated from French. Firefighters also relied on the Mavic Pro’s visible light camera and optical and electronic zoom, according to DJI’s director of public safety integration, Romeo Durscher, who has Parisian contacts. The Verge has reached out to the Paris Fire Brigade and the police for comment.
Both Durscher and DJI comms told The Verge that as far as they knew, thermal cameras weren’t used by the firefighters, even though thermal technology would definitely have helped in this case. Thermal cameras have become increasingly useful in recent tech, such as the military version of HoloLens and Parrot’s new thermal cam add-on for its folding quadcopter.
Typically, drones aren’t allowed to fly in Paris and are geofenced to prevent any flying. The restrictions were removed by DJI to cooperate with authorities’ purposes, the company confirmed to The Verge. Any drone operator can request that geofencing be unlocked, but they may require credentials to unlock a particularly high-risk area.
While DJI didn’t train or gift the firefighters with the drones, it did promote its technology. A DJI spokesperson said that firefighters “have now integrated and digested out technology so they can fully adopt it in search and rescue missions...[and] in extinguishing fires like what we saw in Notre Dame.”
“The mission was delicate and they intelligently called for the Parisian Police Drone Unit cell, which is a dedicated team of professional drone pilots ready to intervene in critical missions,” the spokesperson added. The drones were borrowed from France’s culture and interior ministries, as firefighters still don’t have their own drones.
FRENCH AMBASSADOR ‘MOVED’ BY EMOTIONAL OUTBURST FROM INDIA
French Ambassador to India Alexandre Ziegler Tuesday, 16th April said he was "deeply moved" by the emotional outpouring of people of India in the wake of the massive fire that gutted the cathedral in Paris. "Deeply moved by the outpouring of messages sent from all over India after the fire at #NotreDame de Paris. It's also in such times that one can gauge the value of friendship. Thank you India!," Ambassador Ziegler tweeted.
Soon after the news spread about the devastating blaze at the cathedral, several Indians took to social media to express grief. Many recalled the time they had visited there and others shared pictures from their visit.
"No overreading from the incident. We, the people of republic of India, are with you. I know your emotions on this iconic symbol. Rebuild the material structure, because you are known for building equality," wrote a user, Ganesan Ambedkar on Twitter. Others also expressed grief and hoped for its reconstruction.
"My thoughts are with the people of France. The 850 years of Notre Dame history teach us to rebuild stronger and we will. - love from India," Gautam Damodaran, another user, tweeted.