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Notre Dame fire highlights danger of renovating historic structures

Codes and Standards

Notre Dame fire highlights danger of renovating historic structures

Centuries-old buildings are like tinderboxes.

By Peter Fabris, Contributing Editor | April 19, 2019
Notre Dame fire highlights danger of renovating historic structures

Photo by Bennett Tobias on Unsplash

The devastating fire at Notre-Dame de Paris is the latest blaze to damage or destroy historic buildings while undergoing renovations. It highlights how vulnerable such structures are to fire while undergoing repairs.

While the cause of the fire has not yet been determined, it may well be due to activity during the restoration project on the ancient cathedral.

Historic structures are like tinderboxes, according to an expert in the field, as quoted in a Fast Company article, because they contain wood and other flammable materials that have dried out over centuries.

Torches used in restoration work for soldering pipes or welding metal roofing components can give off hot molten metal bits that drop into concealed spaces. The embers can spark a fire that is not immediately detected.

With extremely dry wood, the heat from power tools could also induce a blaze, even without an open flame. The construction industry doesn’t appear to have universal standards for fire watch and suppression for historic renovations, the Fast Company article says.


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