Notre Damned

Andrew Neil makes the mistake a lot of people make when it comes to contemporary disasters:

I am confident underfunding of the project won’t be the cause: it will have been eye-wateringly expensive. As I’ve written about at length on here, the problem is that modern organisations are infested with managerialism whereby compliance with the latest fad – often government imposed – is given higher priority than making sure the electrics are safe. I’ve seen the compliance hoops contractors have to jump through just to participate in tenders for the public sector and large corporations. Last September commenter Graeme gave us this gem:

“Since the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act (MSA) in 2015, UK companies with turnovers above £36m have needed to produce a statement setting out the steps they have taken to eradicate slavery and human trafficking from their operations and supply chains. Of the 9,000 to 11,000 companies in scope, all should have published a first statement prominently on a corporate website by September 2017. By March 2018, only 5,600 had done so, according to CORE, a coalition made up of nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), academics, lawyers and trade unions that focuses on corporate responsibility.”

Companies nowadays not only have to demonstrate they employ the requisite number of women and aren’t mean to their LGBT employees, but also that their entire supply chain is free of child labour and exploitative practices and they are not helping to perpetuate slavery and human trafficking. This wildly inflates the cost of any project, and keeps dozens of middle class graduates employed giving presentations to one another in air conditioned offices, but adds little value to the job actually getting done. This has reached the point – as we saw with Carillion (1, 2) – that the core business of many large companies nowadays is overcoming the compliance hurdles and buttering up the right people (mainly by employing them in a cosy public-private revolving door system) so they can win contracts. How they then actually go about doing the work is of secondary concern, and most of it will be subcontracted to the lowest bidder. At a guess, the works on Notre Dame were managed by an army of people shuffling paper while the electrics were installed by a contractor who had the lowest bid and spoke Arabic better than he did French. Supervision would have been negligible with QA/QC consisting of a piece of paper signed off by someone who never physically saw the completed works.

This is speculation and I may be wrong of course, but Notre Dame did catch fire and it wasn’t supposed to. Between the entire project being underfunded and a scenario similar to that which I describe above, I know which one I’d choose.

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26 thoughts on “Notre Damned

  1. First the story was that it was related to the renovation work, except it turned out that the renovation had not started. Now it is a short circuit even though the authorities admit that they have not been able to investigate yet. The people who completely rewired Notre Dame in 2010, stung by the inherent accusation, have responded that: a) they had spent a small fortune doing a top of the line job; b) that all appliances in the attic were removed as part of the job with a blanket ban on any new ones; and c) big oak beams need a lot of kindling to get burning and they are puzzled as to what kindling was up there. Can we have the next story please?

  2. First the story was that it was related to the renovation work, except it turned out that the renovation had not started.

    The preparation work had started, which is why there was so much scaffolding. This would include putting in junction boxes, and people would have been doing hot works even during the preparation.

    The people who completely rewired Notre Dame in 2010, stung by the inherent accusation, have responded that: a) they had spent a small fortune doing a top of the line job

    It won’t be the permanent electrical system that started the fire, it’s much more likely to be the temporary one installed for the installation works.

  3. Modern management is often middle class wish fulfillment and modern slavery / child labour / quality control are prime examples.
    Once upon a time people had to actually get off their arses and go out and check that stuff was being done correctly. Now you can just pass a law requiring your contractor to prove a negative, and sit back in the sanctimonious glow of having made the world a better place.

  4. With the area where the fire started totally devestated and having collapsed, how on earth can even the most experienced of investigators find conclusive proof of a short circuit? It isn’t ever going to be anything more than speculation.

    There is a video showing a lone person moving around on the scaffolding in the area where the flames later became visible. There is a flash, which could just be a reflection.

  5. This article has a very strange paragraph in it.

    “The fire started up near the roof top, while another fire started in the north bell tower,” Picaud told NBC News. “All damage seems to be up high and did not go into the lower part of church or touch the organ or stained-glass windows.”

    1. Two fires?
    2. What fire in the N Tower are we talking about?

    The only thing I can think of is that this N Tower fire is the one that was put out by the mystery man (fire fieghter) who was seen walking on the outside of the towers

  6. And CORE is a job creation exercise for middle class graduates such as Robin Pattinson (?) of the Extinction Rebellion protests. The overhead cost of such a statement for a company such as Exxon or Rio Tinto probably runs to one million quid, which could have gone to employees or shareholders

  7. The fact the authorities came out with the ‘it was definitely an accident’ statement at a point when that could in no way be established means that we can have no confidence whatsoever in whatever verdict is eventually delivered. There is absolutely no way they would admit it if Islam inspired arson was the cause.

  8. @Jim on April 19, 2019 at 6:32 pm


    My first comment on day:
    “RoP arson and/or aided by box ticking bureaucracy rather than effective pragmatic security & prevention; firemen also hampered by box ticking bureaucracy and too many “managers”, is my opinion”

    Notre Dame Cathedral fire: Buzzfeed FAILS with “anti-Muslim” claim

  9. FrancisT:

    When I watched the live stream on Reuters Monday night, after the main roof and spire collapsed, I could see a fire start flickering in one of the towers. You can see it here from the 46th minute onward: Watch it for about 10 minutes.

    Note that the firemen caught it and got it under control pretty quickly, and so it didn’t get out of hand. There were a few later flare ups in the tower (1 hour 25 minutes onward, for example) which I suspect were the result of hot-spots.

    For what it’s worth my own view is the tower fire happened due to the proximity of the bell towers to the main roof. You can see the apex of where the roof would have been – that inverted V/triangular part between the towers is where the roof joined them. Given the seat of the tower fire is clearly at the closest part of the tower to where that roof was, it’s my opinion that that’s the most likely cause.

  10. The reports from a couple of days ago saying that the site log showed the power having been turned off contradicts the narrative that an electrical short caused the fire. Doesn’t it?
    Also, can anyone familiar with sites such as this actually envision sparks from a short circuit actually igniting anything and causing a fire like this? Serious question. I reckon I could have stood up in that cathedral with a can of lighter fluid and a zippo and not succeeded in causing a fire.

  11. Sorry to post again but the edit window has closed. Apparently, the official who said that an electrical short is to blame admitted that investigators haven’t even yet been permitted to investigate. This is yet another big red flag indicating that the authorities are under pressure to rule out arson.

  12. With the gillet jaunes protests still very much in evidence, any suggestion that it was Islam inspired arson would go down very badly indeed with the country at large.

    I can quite see why ” the authorities are under pressure to rule out arson.”

  13. @Pcar

    There is this:

    And in case you are wondering why ISIS and Al Qaida are not claiming responsibility:

    It may be a genuine “lone wolf” acting on his own bat and not connected to ISIS, Al Qaida or any other “organisation”. As the description in the Leaderless Resistance essay says, all such a character would need is someone like the ex-Iranian president “I’m a Dinner jacket” or Ayatollah Khamenei to announce that it is every Muslims duty to attack the infidels and that is enough to get the job done.

    Besides, the Koran has all the instructions and incentive that a Muslim needs to operate against the infidels.

  14. @Captain Nemo

    Ah. OK that makes sense.


    The main fire started in the attic underneath the spire. This part of the roof was
    a) packed with lots of wood and no stone
    b) precisely where the workers were doing things to renovate the spire

    While it is possible that malice wa involved I’d go for incompetence as my primary suspect short of some kind of smoking gun (ha ha) proof

  15. “The main fire started in the attic underneath the spire. This part of the roof was
    a) packed with lots of wood and no stone
    b) precisely where the workers were doing things to renovate the spire

    While it is possible that malice wa involved I’d go for incompetence as my primary suspect short of some kind of smoking gun (ha ha) proof”

    Equally one has to admit that if one were to be wanting to commit arson, you’d want to start the fire somewhere a) you could access (ie where the building works had created access to) and b) where there was a suitable source of burnable material. Both of which criteria are met by the apparent starting location.

    I’ll admit that an accident caused by faulty construction electrics is the most likely cause, however nothing that is known about the fire so far precludes arson either. For the authorities to rule it out before the embers were even cold means it will never be admitted as the truth, even if it was. That alone tells us a lot about the state society is in.

  16. On the subject of kindling, it’s likely the roof of Notre Dame received its fair share of gull shit. And may also have bats straining their arses. Both fecal commodities are the source of guano which is high in nitrates. It was access to S.American guano reserves and its use as an oxident in the manufacture of gunpowder contributed to the British success in the Napoleonic Wars. The French had to rely on nitrates extracted from stable straw pissed on by horses. Much less reliable quality & producing an inferior, less constant burn rate powder. Hence their artillery was less accurate then the British & their muskets fouled more readily. Possibly why they failed to adopt the rifled barrel, which was susceptible to fouling.
    Roofs are not water-tight but are designed to shed water through overlapping roofing materials. So you’ll always have air-gaps winds can penetrate. So gulls shitting on the roofs, the shit drying in the sun, cracking & coming loose to be blown by the wind into the roof voids. Collecting & precipitating in pockets of dead air. See where I’ m going to…?

    On the subject of the hoops organisations have to jump through:
    Friend had a ground floor flat in a converted house in N. London. The owners of the flat above had had work done required the replacing of part of her ceilings & she asked me to inspect what had been done. I wasn’t happy about an aspect of it & got the building inspector from the council in. Who was female, black, vast, be-robed, voluminously head-scarfed & had apparently just stepped off a flight from Lagos but had omitted to learn much comprehensible english before she did so. Apart from having the normal number, if not the normal size of limbs & not accompanied a guide dog, she must have ticked almost every diversity box in the council’s HR targets.
    The point of dispute in the building works was the materials used in the ceiling. The flat conversion was of late 70’s early 80’s vintage. Lathe & plaster ceilings – as per the original construction – would pass as fire compartmentalisation for a multi occupancy building. But these had been replaced with plasterboard in the conversion. Plasterboard from that period, at the installed thickness, also conformed to regs for fire-checking. But plasterboard manufactured in the 2000’s does not. Why I couldn’t tell you. Different gypsum formulation? Whatever, the works did not conform to current fire regulation as all replacement work is required to. In the event of a fire, the building was 1) dangerous & 2) the insurers might have reason to deny or dispute a claim.
    Needless to say, the African Princess hadn’t the vaguest what I was talking about. It took considerable pressure to get to someone in the council building control who did & condemn the works. But, then, you’d actually have to know something about London building practises & London buildings, wouldn’t you. Nigerian ones (if they have any) not being particularly relevant.

  17. As has been pointed out, Oak beams are difficult to ignite (eg @bloke in spain April 20, 2019 at 1:30 pm on TW)

    One Accelerant now revealed to be honey stored In roof

    Another fire caused by eco-loons

    Although reported as “The Bees Survived”

  18. Neil might have a point. If a compay contracted to do a job has to spend a lot of time and resources (i.e. money) on compliance then for a given value of contract that is money not spent on actually doing the job.

  19. I live in a very old oak-framed house (c. 300 yrs old). Those beams are tough as buggery. I once had to fit a light and drilling them was a nightmare. I broke two bits and that was using a high-end drill. The oak did smoke but I suspect, despite the bits getting seriously hot it was nowhere near ignition. I suspect getting old oak to burn is very difficult so whatever caused the Notre Dame fire must have been an extremely hot, sustained and quite a large fire.

  20. Honey? You’re not serious?

    Deadly so The Bees Survived

    The hundreds of thousands of bees that lived in hives inside Notre Dame’s roof are alive and well, according to the beekeeper, or apiculteur, that oversees them.

    Note: In not On and “In” was how BBC World Service News reported on Sat 20 April 2019 0200 UTC

  21. BiS,

    Haha, dodgy Nigerian (or other African) underqualified knob-ends with jobs at London councils. Accords perfectly with what I hear from a mate who works in property/construction and involved as a councilor in local government. A huge loophole in immigration – allow in “qualified” individuals with shiny certificates from African universities. A proper immigration system would prevent this kind of stuff.

  22. The following contains a video and transcript made by a craftsman making successively more aggressive attempts to set an old oak beam on fire. The second interview is from a retired conservator who knows the roof of Notre Dame well.
    There is a comment reminding readers that after Hampton Court fire charred oak beams continue to support the roof. Aged oak beams do not easily combust, spread rapidly and collapse.

  23. @Ljh on April 24, 2019 at 4:16 pm

    Informative, thanks.

    imo supports my “honey accelerant” (posts above) posit

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