It turns out that construction workers that were in charge of restoring the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris were smoking cigarettes on the job, according to the church's underlying scaffolding firm. However, any possibility that cigarettes were the cause of the fire that destroyed the iconic roof has been ruled out.
"A spokesman for family-owned Le Bras Freres, confirming a report in French weekly Le Canard Enchaine, told Reuters that some workers of its Europe Echafaudage scaffolding unit had informed police that they had 'sometimes' smoked on the scaffolding, despite a smoking ban on the site," reports Reuters.
Le Bras Frères spokesman Marc Eskenazi condemned the practice of workers smoking cigarettes on site in a statement, emphasizing that it did not cause the fire.
"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," said Eskenazi said.
Eskenazi said that cigarette butts could not have possibly started the fire and was confused how Le Canard Enchaine discovered the materials. "If cigarette butts have survived the inferno, I do not know what material they were made of," he said.
Though arson has been ruled out by French prosecutors, the source of the fire still remains unknown. Most recently, Europe Echaffaudage ruled out the possibility that it stemmed from electrical malfunctioning on two elevator lifts. "The lifts' electricity was perfectly within specifications and well maintained," the scaffolding firm said.
Notre Dame administration also maintains that electrical safety had been maintained where the wires run through the roof. "Nothing was ever done without the authorization of the state. ... There were no wires dangling, everything was properly installed," cathedral spokesman Andre Finot said.
Following the fire, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that the cathedral will be even "more beautiful" while also calling for it to be rebuilt in five years.
"The fire at Notre Dame reminds us that our history never stops and we will always have challenges to overcome," Macron said last week. "We will rebuild Notre Dame, more beautiful than before – and I want it done in the next five years. We can do it. After the time of testing comes a time of reflection and then of action."
Experts speculate, however, that the rebuilding of Notre Dame could take decades to rebuild. For instance, the roof was comprised of oak beams cut from centuries-old trees that likely do not even exist in Europe today.
"Some of that material may be reusable, and that’s a painstaking exercise. It’s like an archaeological excavation," Duncan Wilson, chief executive of the conservation organization Historic England, told The Guardian.
Macron's commitment to rebuilding Notre Dame has been rather popular politically. According to Express, his approval rating in France has edged up by three points since the fire raged across the cathedral's roof last week.
"Mr. Macron, 41, was seen in the eyes of many Parisians to have 'rose to the occasion' which has resulted in his popularity rise by three points in the latest poll," reported the outlet. "Data from BVA, found the French president now has a 32 percent approval rating, with six out of ten people feeling he has done a good job handling blaze at the 800-year-old cathedral."