Notre Dame Fire

Sz. Dudas/SIPA

French President Vows To Rebuild After Fire Ravages Notre Dame Cathedral

April 15, 2019 - 6:24 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880/AP) — Hundreds of firefighters worked desperately to save the historic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris after a massive fire engulfed the 12th-century church on the holiest week of the year for Catholics.

Video posted to social media showed a large plume of grey smoke and flames shooting from the roof of the nearly 900-year-old cathedral as hundreds of Parisians and tourists looked on in horror from the streets below.

PHOTOS: Fire Devastates Notre Dame Cathedral

The blaze collapsed the cathedral's 300-foot spire and spread to one of its landmark rectangular towers, but Paris fire chief Jean-Claude Gallet said the church's structure had been saved after firefighters managed to stop the fire spreading to the northern belfry.

Speaking alongside junior Interior minister Laurent Nunez, Gallet said "two thirds of the roofing has been ravaged." He said firefighters would keep working overnight to cool down the building.

Late Monday, signs pointed to the fire nearing an end as lights could be seen through the windows moving around the front of the cathedral, apparently investigators inspecting the scene.

Paris Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Gregoire told BFMTV that the historic monument has suffered “colossal damages." 

French President Emmanuel Macron has promised to rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral and says he is seeking international help to restore the Paris landmark.

Macron said after the French capital's fire chief announced the emergency response had changed into a monitoring and mop-up operation, "The worst has been avoided although the battle is not yet totally won."

Macron said a national fundraising campaign to restore Notre Dame would be launched Tuesday and he called on the world's "greatest talents" to help.

The French leader credited the "courage" and "great professionalism" of firefighters with sparing Notre Dame's facade and two landmark towers from being destroyed.

Jim Bullock, president of New York Fire Consultants and retired FDNY chief, spoke on the fire earlier Monday and noted that the first course of action was to surrender part of the structure to save the rest, but the time for that quickly passed and the fire continued to rage throughout the structure.

Bullock said that after that passed, the strategy was to "extinguish the fire as quickly as you can with the least damage."

Through, first responders were met with a number of challenges, including the height of the cathedral.

“One of the other tactics is to use a building next door, but this area is surrounded with no buildings that are exactly close enough,” he explains.

The sprawling structure is isolated from other buildings, located on an island in the Seine River.  

Late Monday, the Vatican issued a statement about the "terrible fire" that had "devastated" Notre Dame.

"The Holy See has seen with shock and sadness the news of the terrible fire that has devastated the Cathedral of Notre Dame, symbol of Christianity in France and in the world,” the statement read.

The capitol of the Catholic Church noted it is praying for firefighters and “those who are doing everything possible to confront this dramatic situation.”

Macron said the fire consuming the cathedral was taking part of everyone in France with it. Macron tweeted he was sad to see “a part of us being on fire” and he extended “thoughts for all the Catholics and all the French.”

The French president treated the fire as a national emergency. According to reports, when he reached the landmark, he went straight into meetings at the nearby Paris police headquarters.

France's civil security agency says "all means" except for water-dropping aircraft, which U.S. President Donald Trump suggested, were deployed to tackle the blaze.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo also aksed people in the area to steer clear of the security perimeter around the Gothic-style church.

It is unclear how the fire started. There are reports that fire officials believe the blaze may be "potentially linked" to a renovation project at the church. The Paris prosecutors' office ruled out arson and possible terror-related motives, and said it was treating it as an accident.

No deaths or injuries were reported.

Leaders across the world reacted to the devastating fire, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who tweeted “God preserve this splendid house of prayer, and protect those battling the blaze.”

“On behalf of our beloved St. Patrick's Cathedral and on behalf of the citizens of New York, the love, the solidarity, the prayers and the sorrow that we feel over the devastating fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in the heart of Paris and indeed the very heart of Europe and certainly the heart of civilization, in so many ways, I could only imagine what it would do to all of us if a fire struck S Patrick's. We would all sense that there was a fire in our home. Because that's what a cathedral really is, it's a spiritual home,” Cardinal Dolan said outside the Manhattan cathedral.

He said it would be "difficult" to imagine a church that "more represents love and God's presence among us" than Paris' Notre Dame. 

A memorial service will be planned for later in the week for the French cathedral at the Church of Notre Dame in Morningside Heights, where many French-Americans are parishioners.

"New York aches. Our prayers are with the people of France and the first responders," Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted.

On Thursday, 16 religious statues were removed from the peak for the first time in over a century to be taken for cleaning and therefore escaped the blaze.

(© 2019 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report)