The massive fire that recently impacted the historic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was all over the news this past week. It was as alarming as it was tragic, but unlike most modern buildings, some would argue that older buildings such as the Notre Dame Cathedral are more fire-prone than others.
As Marrion Fire and Risk Consultant Christopher Marrion explains, historic buildings like the Notre Dame Cathedral are comprised of large amounts of flammable materials – namely wood – that makes up the building’s floors, furnishings, walls, and even the very roof trusses themselves. Historic buildings such as this also tend to acquire old artifacts, including artwork, books, and other flammable materials that go up in flames as quickly as a spark can ignite.
Historic buildings also tend to be built with the construction principles of their time, which results in fewer up-to-code improvements to both prevent and suppress fires. Large buildings, such as the Notre Dame Cathedral, provide unobstructed chambers for air to flow. The lack of firewalls only exacerbates a growing fire, and the rooftop building materials make it challenging for a firefighter’s water to reach the roaring fire inside.
Many of these historic building fires transpire in the middle of reconstruction efforts, and this is because construction workers introduce a plethora of hazards when operating auxiliary lighting and power tools to the site where these combustible materials exist. Even the slightest spark from a sander, grinder, or welder, can be enough to set a building ablaze, and this presents an elevated risk.
Modern buildings are built with advanced materials, which take many of these concerns into consideration; this would explain why older buildings are more fire-prone than their modern counterparts.