St. Louis fire chief explains why Notre Dame's spire couldn't be saved

Dennis Jenkerson talked with KMOX about the challenges when trying to fight a fire of that magnitude

April 16, 2019 - 1:42 pm

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - Damage assessment teams are surveying the still majestic, but charred Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.

St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson talked with KMOX about the challenges when trying to fight a fire of that magnitude.

The Chief also pointed out the importance or having experienced firefighters. Jenkerson said the fire tore through the spire because of the open areas and the wood. He compared it to building a fire, "how do you position the wood, upright, so that it travels quickly."

Related: Notre Dame hailed as monument to the 'best of civilization'

Chief Jenkerson says once the steeple and roof were lost, the defensive action than turns to protecting what is left. Another hindrance, the average fire equipment only reaches 100 ft. – the spire on Notre Dame was between 200-300 ft.

Firefighters in Paris declared success Tuesday in the more than 12-hour battle. The Notre Dame cathedral lost its spire and roof, but spared its bell towers and the purported Crown of Christ.

What remained was a blackened shell of the monument immortalized in Victor Hugo's 1831 novel "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," a building that had survived almost 900 years of tumultuous French history but was devastated amid renovation works at the start of Catholic Easter week.

More than 400 firefighters participated in extinguishing the flames.

Jenkerson tells KMOX, in St. Louis, the fire department looks at places they know will cause issues if there were to be a fire.

There is preplanning involved, things like looking at what the water supply would be, where to set up, where to position aerial ladders.

When the fire at Notre Dame first broke out, some questioned why firefighters were not putting water on the blaze. Chief Jenkerson says that's because they were likely trying to figure out what the first responders knew they could save.

Jenkerson points out just throwing water on a fire is not always the answer and that's where the training of an experienced firefighter comes in to play.​

© 2019 KMOX (Entercom). All rights reserved