Notre-Dame’s Safety Planners Underestimated the Risk, With Devastating Results – The New York Times

François Chatillon, a senior architect involved in numerous restorations of France’s historic monuments, also stressed that the intense fire risk in the oak timbers underneath Notre-Dame’s lead roof was well known.

Once lit, he said, “It is like throwing a match in a matchbox, it’s impossible to put out.”

[Update: Notre-Dame: A calamity threatening to be repeated across France.]

For him the surprise was not that Notre-Dame burned this week, but “that it didn’t burn before.”

Mr. Mouton and his team were not solely responsible for all the decisions made to secure a monument as precious as Notre-Dame. At a minimum, their plans required approval up the chain at the Culture Ministry.

Charlotte Hubert, who presides at the same group of chief architects in charge of historical monuments that Mr. Mouton belongs to, underscored that security at such buildings was tightly regulated.

“The chief architect isn’t handed the keys and left to do exactly as he wants,” Ms. Hubert said.

Still, fire experts said that two of the top officials on the project, Mr. Mouton and a former firefighter, Lt. Col. Régis Prunet, appeared to have miscalculated what was needed to protect such an unusual, complex and irreplaceable building from a fire.

Scientists consulted by The New York Times said fire dynamics indicated that, while the dense timbers may take time to burn completely, a fire would naturally race across the original timbers at Notre-Dame. It was a mistake to assume otherwise, they said.

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