Workers renovating Notre-Dame flouted a ban on smoking at the monument, a contractor admitted on Wednesday (Apr 24), while denying any link with last week’s devastating blaze that ripped through the cathedral.
“There were colleagues who from time to time broke the rules and we regret it,” a spokesman for scaffolding company Le Bras Freres told AFP, before adding: “in no way could a cigarette butt be the cause of the fire at Notre-Dame”.
Spokesman Marc Eskenazi said some workers “had admitted in front of the police that they did smoke from time to time,” confirming a report in the satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchaine.
The company had a strict ban on smoking up the scaffolding, which was erected around the steeple as it underwent major renovation to restore its lead covering and joints.
Notre-Dame’s now mostly-destroyed roof was made of wood, and included some of the original beams erected in the 12th century.
But given the height of the structure, and the time it took to come down from the building site, some workers ignored the rules, Eskenazi explained.
He dismissed the idea of a cigarette starting the fire, saying “anyone who has ever tried to light a fire at home knows that it is not by putting a cigarette butt on an oak log that anything happens.”
French investigators have already interviewed the site workers and other witnesses and are now trying to find the origin of the fire at one of Europe’s most visited monuments.