The fire that tore through Notre Dame cathedral was probably caused by accident, French prosecutors said on Tuesday, after firefighters doused the last flames in the ruins overnight.
More than 400 firemen were needed to tame the inferno that consumed the roof and collapsed the spire of the eight-centuries-old cathedral. They worked through the night to bring the fire under control some 14 hours after it began.
“We are favoring the theory of an accident,” Paris public prosecutor Remy Heitz said, adding that 50 people were working on what was expected to be a long and complex investigation.
One firefighter was injured; no one else was reported hurt in the blaze, which began after the building was closed to the public for the evening.
From the outside, the bell towers and outer walls still stood firm, but the insides and the upper structure were eviscerated by the blaze.
Investigators will not be able to enter the cathedral’s blackened nave until experts are satisfied its stone walls withstood the heat and the building is structurally sound.
“The fire is fully extinguished,” fire service spokesman Gabriel Plus told reporters. “Our job today is to monitor the structure and its movements.”
The fire swiftly ripped through the cathedral’s timbered roof supports, where workmen had been carrying out extensive renovations.
The Paris prosecutor has opened an investigation into “involuntary destruction by fire.” Police on Tuesday began questioning the workers involved in the restoration, the prosecutor’s office said.
It was too early to estimate the cost of the damage, said Bertrand de Feydeau of the Fondation du Patrimoine, a charity which works to protect French heritage, but it is likely to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.