PARIS -- French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday that he wants to see the fire-ravaged Notre Dame rebuilt within five years, just hours after firefighters declared success in extinguishing the inferno. The blaze engulfed Paris' iconic cathedral Monday, burning its spire and roof but sparing its bell towers and the relic revered as Jesus' Crown of Thorns.
"We have so much to rebuild," Macron said in a televised address to the nation. "We will rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral even more beautifully. We can do it, and once again, we will mobilize [to do so]."
Authorities consider the fire an accident, possibly as a result of restoration work at the global architectural treasure that survived almost 900 years of tumultuous French history but was devastated in the blaze on the second day of Holy Week.
Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said the inquiry into the fire would be "long and complex." Fifty investigators were working on it and would interview workers from five companies hired for the renovations on the cathedral's roof, where the flames first broke out.
Heitz said an initial fire alert was sounded at 6:20 p.m. Monday, but no fire was found. The second alert was sounded at 6:43 p.m., and the blaze was discovered on the roof.
Investigators have already questioned nearly 30 people, said a Paris judicial police official, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to comment on an ongoing probe.
"Notre Dame has survived the revolutionary history of France, and this happened during building works," said former Culture Minister Jack Lang.
The Notre Dame cathedral was built over centuries, starting in 1163. It was partially consumed by fire in just hours Monday, as thousands of Parisians stood sentinel, singing "Ave Maria" and weeping at the sight.
"Parisians lose their lady," read one French headline. In Strasbourg, the city's great cathedral tolled its bell for 15 minutes Tuesday morning in solidarity with Parisians.Gallery: Fire at Notre Dame in Paris
There were no deaths in the fire, but two police officers and one firefighter were injured, officials said.
The cathedral's rector, Monsignor Patrick Chauvet, said Tuesday that fire monitors routinely inspected the cathedral. "Three times a day they go up, under the wooden roof, to make an assessment," he told France Inter, a radio station.
He also said there was an on-site firefighter at the cathedral, although he did not say how often that person was there, where that person was normally stationed or whether that person was present Monday.
"For security, I don't think we can do more," he said. "But there is always an incident that you can't predict."
The cathedral spokesman, Andre Finot, said the on-duty firefighter at the cathedral had access to an alarm system that indicates which specific fire detector has gone off. When it does, the firefighter can dispatch a security agent, also at the cathedral, to check.
Finot added that large investments made by the French state several years ago to increase fire security at the cathedral included installing "sensors, detectors everywhere."
"Twenty-four hours out of 24, someone was watching," he said.
Frederic Letoffe, co-president of a group of French companies that specialize in work on older buildings and monuments, said Notre Dame had fire detectors that functioned continuously and was equipped with dry risers -- empty pipes that firefighters can externally connect to a pressurized water source.
But he said the cathedral -- like many others in France -- did not have automatic sprinklers in the wooden framework of the roof, and that its attic space was not compartmentalized with fire-breaking walls, which could have prevented a blaze from spreading.
Letoffe added that contractors working on construction sites had to follow strict guidelines when using electrical tools, and that after finishing for the day, contractors working with heat must remain on site for two hours.
Pope Francis offered his prayers that Notre Dame, the "architectural gem of a collective memory," will once again be a shrine to the Catholic faith, a symbol of the French nation and a spiritual and architectural gift to humanity.
In a condolence note to Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit, Francis said the fire was particularly devastating given that it came during the somber days leading up to Easter during which Christians commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said there were still some risks to Notre Dame's structure and that it was "under permanent surveillance because it can still budge."
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Director-General Audrey Azoulay said work must begin immediately to protect the remaining structure.
The first 24-48 hours are crucial to protecting the stone and wood structure from water damage and assessing the next steps, she said, warning that parts of the cathedral remain "extremely fragile," notably hundreds of tons of scaffolding around the spire that collapsed. Notre Dame is part of a UNESCO heritage site, and UNESCO has offered its expertise going forward.
Repairing the cathedral, including the 800-year-old wooden beams that made up its roof, presents challenges.
The roof cannot be rebuilt exactly as it was because "we don't, at the moment, have trees on our territory of the size that were cut in the 13th century," said Bertrand de Feydeau, vice president of preservation group Fondation du Patrimoine, adding that the roof restoration work would have to use new technology.
Also of concern, Feydeau said, is the organ, "a very fragile instrument, especially its pipes."
"It has not burnt, but no one can tell whether it has been damaged by water. Nobody knows if it is a functioning state or will need to be restored," he said.
France's richest businessman, Bernard Arnault, and his luxury goods group LVMH pledged $226 million for the cathedral's reconstruction. Billionaire Francois Pinault and his son, Francois-Henri Pinault, who is married to actress Salma Hayek, said they were giving about $113 million from their company, Artemis, the holding company owning auction house Christie's and the main shareholder of luxury fashion houses including Gucci. French companies Total and L'Oreal each pledged about $113 million.
Offers of assistance flowed in from around the world to help restore the 12th century tourist attraction to its former glory.
Poland, the Czech Republic and Greece were among those offering to send experts from their own restoration projects, while major French businesses pledged financial assistance.
In his speech, Macron thanked firefighters, police and those who pledged funds. His goal of rebuilding the cathedral in five years seems ambitious.
Peter Fuessenich, who oversees reconstruction for the Gothic cathedral in Cologne, Germany, said it could take decades to repair Notre Dame. Cologne Cathedral was heavily damaged during World War II and work to repair it is ongoing more than 70 years later.
"It will certainly take years, perhaps even decades, until the last damage caused by this terrible fire will be completely repaired," he told broadcaster RTL. "When the last stone was set in Notre Dame, the first one was laid here in Cologne, and in this respect it affects us all very much."
DISBELIEF IN PARIS
As hundreds of people gathered Tuesday for a vigil prayer across the Seine River from the cathedral, people around the world shared their grief on social media along with unforgettable memories from the Paris landmark.
They posted selfies and family photos that were taken at Notre Dame. Some wrote of their disbelief. Others, saying no words adequately expressed their feelings, posted images of the architectural masterpiece in flames or the spire falling.
Even people who hadn't visited the cathedral said they struggled to come to terms with the loss. The Rev. Philip Hobson, pastor of Mt. Sinai Congregational Church, United Church of Christ in Mt. Sinai, N.Y., said he felt a connection to the structure from watching movies, putting together puzzles of those famous stained-glass windows with his family, and now seeing the pictures and comments of his parishioners.
"Our assumptions of what is permanent are challenged. Not sure what to make of all of it," Hobson wrote on Facebook.
Moscow photographer Evgeny Feldman said Notre Dame has been part of an arrival ritual for his trips to the French capital.
"It has always been a magical moment for me -- to fly into Paris, drop your bags, take the bikes and take a ride by the facade of the cathedral late at night," Feldman wrote on Facebook.
"I very much hope that in a few years, in a few decades, I will still be able to take a bike at night (or a hover-board!) and take a ride on the square in front of it and gaze in amazement at the sculpture, towers and stain glass," the 28-year-old wrote.
Famed primatologist Jane Goodall recalled in a posted excerpt from her book Reason for Hope how a visit to Notre Dame during the 1970s "marked an epiphany in my thinking about my place on Planet Earth and the meaning of my life."
Goodall said gazing at a rose window in the mostly vacant church, hearing a piece by Bach playing in a distant corner for a wedding, was a "suddenly captured moment of eternity" and "perhaps the closest I have ever come to experiencing ecstasy, the ecstasy of the mystic."
In Paris, many people were still struggling to fathom what had happened.
"I was stunned when I came to see the fire last night, and I'm still so shocked this morning," said Serge Roger, a 67-year-old Parisian retiree.
Pascale Defranqui, 59, had studied the cathedral's architecture in art history classes at the Louvre, she said, and would marvel at its towers on her way home.
"I'm not sure I want to know what happened," Defranqui said. "I just want to see it renovated as quickly as possible."
Information for this article was contributed by Samuel Petrequin, Thomas Adamson, Angela Charlton, John Leicester, Sylvie Corbet, Elaine Ganley, Nicole Winfield, Colleen Barry, Vanessa Gera, Nataliya Vasilyeva, Kate dePury and Sylvia Hui of The Associated Press; by Chico Harlan, Michael Birnbaum, James McAuley, Reis Thebault, Griff Witte, Stefano Pitrelli and Quentin Aries of The Washington Post; and by Adam Nossiter, Aurelien Breeden and Elian Peltier of The New York Times.
“We will rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral even more beautifully. We can do it, and once again, we will mobilize [to do so],” French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday in a televised address.
A Section on 04/17/2019
Print Headline: Will rebuild Notre Dame, Macron says; officials dig into fire’s cause