Notre Dame Cathedral Fire: Cigarette Butts Found on Site

While the cause of the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is still unconfirmed, investigators did find burnt cigarette butts inside the historic structure, French news outlet BFM-TV reports.

According to the outlet, officials looking into last week's massive fire found seven cigarette butts at the site, despite a smoking ban.

The 850-year-old church was undergoing a $6.8 million restoration project when the fire erupted, and the owner of Le Bras Freres, the company responsible for the construction scaffolding around the roof and spire, admitted that his employees did "sometimes" smoke on the job, which was against the rules, Reuters reports.

However, a spokesperson for the company refuted the idea that the fire could have been started by the cigarettes. "We condemn it. But the fire started inside the building... so for company Le Bras this is not a hypothesis, it was not a cigarette butt that set Notre-Dame de Paris on fire," he told Reuters.

Initial reports detailed that the fire started in Notre Dame's attic, which is made up of a wooden framework, spread across the roof and made its way up to the 300-foot spire. Nicknamed "the forest," the attic is made up of a dense timber structure, Paris public prosecutor Rémy Heitz said, and there are no sprinklers or fire-blocking walls installed there.

It's unclear how the fire broke out, as there were no workers scheduled to be on the rooftop scaffolding when the fire broke out at 6:20 p.m. on April 15. The Paris Fire Brigade reportedly stated that the fire was "potentially linked" to the renovation of the building, the Chicago Tribune reported. But investigators said on Wednesday that they could not determine if the cigarettes were the cause of the fire.

Another theory about how the fire may have potentially started has to do with a short circuit, according to CBS News. The local Le Parisian newspaper reported that a computer glitch or an issue with temporary elevators being used in the restoration may have been to blame.

Although officials do not yet have an official cause for the fire, they say they do not suspect arson or a targeted attack was behind it.

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Despite the destruction of the landmark, the main part of the structure has been saved and fundraising for the effort to restore and rebuild the church has already hit $1 billion thanks to donations from wealthy French citizens like Francois Pinault, Salma Hayek's husband, who pledged $100 million euros, and LVMH head Bernard Arnault, who will contribute $200 million euros.

French President Emmanuel Macron has stated that he hopes to have the cathedral rebuilt in time for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, though some experts say it could take much longer.