An electrical short-circuit most likely sparked the inferno at the Notre Dame Cathedral, a French police official told the Associated Press on Thursday. —
The official, who spoke anonymously because of the ongoing probe, said investigators made an initial assessment Wednesday but have not been given the OK to work through the rubble because of safety reasons. Wooden planks were holding up the delicate walls of the cathedral, the official said.
Investigators have said they believe the fire was accidental. Within hours of the fire engulfing the Gothic masterpiece on Monday, city prosecutors announced they were opening an inquiry. Arson was ruled out as well as possible terror-related motives.
Officials said early on that it was possible the blaze was linked to a $6.8 million renovation project at the 850-year-old landmark. About 40 people – construction crews and cathedral staff – have been questioned and some are being questioned again Thursday, according to the Paris prosecutor’s office.
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The blaze collapsed the cathedral's iconic spire, most of the roof was ravaged, and the damage to the 12th-century building elsewhere was extensive. But its twin bell towers, rose windows, 18-century organ and precious artworks were saved. Engineers are likely to put up a temporary roof to protect the cathedral from the elements.
Donations to rebuild the cathedral have neared the $1 billion mark. French President Emmanuel Macron has said he wants the structure rebuilt in five years, but experts say it could take one or two decades.
France will hold a competition among international architects to design a new spire and will determine whether the structure should replicate the one that fell in Monday's blaze or have its own original design.
Also Thursday, France was paying a day-long tribute to the Paris firefighters instrumental in saving the structure and rescuing its priceless treasures as flames raced around them. More than 400 firefighters took part in the nine-hour stand against the blaze.
Among the firefighters being honored was fire brigade chaplain Jean-Marc Fournier, who helped salvage the crown of thorns believed to have been worn by Jesus Christ at his crucifixion.
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Macron will host the firefighters to share “words of thanks,” according to his office. Top government ministers will also take part in the event at the presidential palace in Paris.
Later, Paris City Hall will hold a ceremony in the firefighters’ honor, with a Bach violin concert, two giant banners strung from the monumental city headquarters and readings from Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Report: Likely cause of Notre Dame Cathedral fire an electrical short-circuit