Dry timber

What may have happened:

A heritage fire safety expert has said his heart sinks and he fears for the worst every time he sees scaffolding on a historic building.

Stewart Kidd said all construction sites were inherently dangerous places, but the danger was so much higher in a heritage building.

“We’re talking about timber, we’re talking about very dry buildings because they are old, we’re talking about nooks and crannies, we’re talking about voids and ducts where fire can spread unseen and pop out a long way from where it started.”

He said data from Scotland suggested that about 8-12% of fires in heritage buildings occured when contractors were present.

“What we know is that any kind of hot work, effectively any form of heat application during construction, is dangerous. So not just welding, not just brazing, it is also cutting, it is also grinding, it is also soldering and it is particularly lead work on roofs.”

Kidd, a consultant who has written numerous books on fire risks in heritage buildings, pointed to the loss of the National Trust country house Uppark in 1989 which occurred while contractors were putting a new roof on after the 1987 gales. “They applied too much heat and set fire to the timber under the lead which smouldered and then burst into flames.”

I bet the people who were working on Notre Dame are feeling like crap today.

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