Spire Atop Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris Collapses in Fire
PARIS -- The spire atop the iconic Notre Dame cathedral collapsed amid a devastating fire at the Paris cathedral on Monday that has been burning for several hours.
Flames and thick plumes of smoke billowed from the cathedral, including at the bell tower and up the spire, which is surrounded by scaffolding. The fire rapidly spread and took over the iconic cathedral as onlookers scrambled to get a view of the destruction, even as soot and cinder fell onto them.
Consumed by flames, the spire leaned to one side and then collapsed onto the burning roof.
Firefighters atop cherry picker cranes sprayed water onto the church in an attempt to calm the flames, and the smell of smoke emanated through the air. The French Interior Ministry said 400 firefighters have been mobilized to deal with the blaze.
The firetrucks had difficulty getting to the scene, located on an island in Paris, amid the daily afternoon rush hour. Police said on Twitter the public should avoid the area and allow emergency vehicles into the scene.
French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said exceptional measures are being taken to try to save the cathedral.
Ball State University history professor Fred Suppe says the fire will be devastating to the French, as well as Christians around the world.
"The cathedral makes France, France," Suppe said. "It is an iconic landmark and was one of the first of the great cathedrals in Europe."
Suppe, who is a medieval historian and studied Notre Dame cathedral in Paris for several decades, admits he was awestruck when he first visited the building in the late 1960s.
"For French people, this is one of their national iconic buildings," he said. "It is in the center of Paris and was built in the 12th and 13th centuries. This is going to be devastating from a cultural and religious standpoint."
"To put it in perspective, this would be like an American watching the White House burn down."
It was not immediately known what caused the fire and whether anybody was injured. The cathedral has been surrounded by scaffolding and construction work was being done.
(Photo by: Francois Guillot/AFP/Getty Image)