The fire of Paris's Notre Dame cathedral on Monday showed how quickly historical buildings can be devastated. The first fire alarm went off at 6.20pm on Monday evening, with the first firefighters arriving ten minutes later.
Firefighters were joined by elite fire prevention units from the entire city of Paris. Despite the quick action, the roof of the central nave was engulfed in flames. Every second counts when it comes to extinguishing fires in historical buildings. Indeed, the September 2018 fire of the National Museum of Brazil left a reported 92.5% of its 20 million-item archive destroyed.
The Grand Ducal Fire and Rescue Corps (CGDIS) fire prevention specialist, Lauren Massard, explained that the wooden construction of the nave's roof made it impossible for firefighters to extinguish the fire. The fire spread underneath the nave's lead roof and the falling pieces of the wooden construction made it impossible for firefighters to go inside the building to extinguish the fire from below. The issue is that the wood used for the structure is centuries old and that in turn makes it exceptionally dry and prone to catching fire.
Luxembourg City's cathedral has a similar structure to the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. To prepare for the eventuality of fires breaking out in buildings with difficult structures, CGDIS's fire brigades have special intervention plans. In terms of Luxembourg's cathedral, the intervention plans detail the areas most at-risk and a specific procedure on how to evacuate the cultural artefacts. The plan highlights that every second counts.
Gothic cathedrals have roofs that were built with slight draughts to ensure that the wood would not begin to get mouldy. In the event of a fire, however, these draughts can cause significant damage in stoking the fire.
The heat and danger on Monday meant that firefighters were unable to enter the building after a certain point, instead operating drones and extinguisher robots.
Luxembourg may not have robots that can extinguish fires, but does have drones that can give firefighters the information they need on where the fire is at its worst.
Whilst more than 400 firefighters worked around the clock to extinguish the fire in Paris, the damage to the cathedral is estimated in the billions.
Video in Luxembourgish.