A security guard in charge of protecting Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was working only his third day and sent his fellow colleague to the wrong building to check on the alert when the fire first broke out, according to a new report.
The April 15 blaze sparked worldwide shock as people watched history burn while firefighters struggled to contain the fire.
Prosecutors investigating the cause of the blaze said last month there is no evidence thus far to suggest the fire was a criminal act. Instead, the Paris prosecutor’s office said in a statement Wednesday several hypotheses into the cause of the April 15 blaze include a malfunctioning electrical system or a smoldering cigarette.
But while the cause of the blaze remains unclear, the events in the early stages of the fire suggest some of the damage could have been contained had the novice guard went to the right building.
A major miscommunication occurred amid the early warnings of the blaze as one of the guards went to check the fire-free sacristy, not the attic of the Cathedral, a move that delayed the response to the fire, the New York Times reported in a lengthy investigation.
Only 30 minutes later, the cathedral staff realized they made a mistake and sent the guard to the attic – also known as “the forest” for its aged timber beams that hold up the roof – only to find that the fire was already in full swing.
The report found that the person who notified the location of the fire to the guard was working there only his third day and that he just started getting used to the alert system.
The system itself was complex and dated, prompting questions whether the person in charge of it even understood the alert in general.
The massive blaze ripped through the medieval cathedral, destroying the spire which toppled into the flames. It has left the crippled monument, once a major tourist attraction, barricaded to the public, and the skyline of Paris noticeably altered.
French President Emmanuel Macron set a target of five years – which will be when France is set to host the 2024 Summer Olympics – for the completion of Notre Dame restoration efforts.