Investigators Point to Cigarettes, Electrical Faults in the Notre-Dame Fire

The investigators say its unlikely the blaze was a criminal act.
Jessica Miley

There is no evidence that the fire that destroyed a large section of the historic Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris was deliberately lit, prosecutors say.

The investigation into the blaze is still ongoing, but initial reports suggest the devastating event was caused by a malfunctioning electrical system or even a smoldering cigarette.


In a statement released on Wednesday, the Paris prosecutor's office said that while they were still investigating the exact cause of the fire, there was no evidence of a criminal act so far.

“If certain failings - which may explain the scale of the fire - have been brought to light, the investigations carried out to this date have not yet been able to determine the cause of the fire,” Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said in the statement.

“For now, there are no indications of a criminal origin."

Unlikely to be deliberate

The fire broke out in the cathedral on April 15, 2019, despite extraordinary efforts by Paris firefighting teams, large portions of the cathedral's historic roof were destroyed, including the church's iconic spire. The cathedral was a staple of the Paris skyline and a major tourist attraction for the city.

Immediately after the fire, several wealthy French families stepped in with massive donations to assist in the rebuilding of the building.

This caused uproar around the world as the stark reality of how white, eurocentric culture is valued came into focus. French president Emmanual Macron has set the ambitious target of 2024 for the renovation to be complete - just in time for Paris to host the Summer Olympics.

Renovation already controversial

The full renovation bill is expected to reach approximately between 1 and 2 billion dollars. The cathedral spent approximately $4.5 million every year before the fire on maintenance costs and necessary renovations.

An international architectural competition has been announced to secure a design for the roof replacement. The entries were posted online by architects and so far range from the absurd to the serious.

Many in the architectural profession have criticized the idea of a competition as it forces firms to provide a lot of creative output for free. The relatively short timeline of just five years has also been questioned.

While physically possible to rebuild in the 5-year time frame, many ask whether the tight time frame allows enough space for the emotional and psychological labor required for both the architects and the city.

For reference, the Twin Towers memorial took more than a decade to be fully realized.

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