Spanish expert will expose about the fire in Notre Dame and the lessons it left for the defense of the world heritage.
The fire of the Notre Dame Cathedral on the afternoon of April 15 shocked the entire world and the question that immediately arose was “Are we prepared to preserve the great world heritage?” This will be one of the topics that will be addressed at the Fire Summit – Heritage Protection: Prevention and Planning – which will take place on August 29 as part of SeguridadExpo 2019. One of the conferences will be given by the expert in Historical Cultural Heritage Risks of the Spanish Fire Foundation, Alfredo Delgado, who is also a member of one of the most advanced fire safety centers. The Spanish expert will be in charge of the conference “Notre Dame: Vulnerable heritage and its lessons.” Delgado stressed that “unfortunately the Notre Dame Cathedral has had to burn so that governments and organizations realize the risk that exists in the face of disasters in our cultural heritage,” said the expert, who also wonders if this fire “will have served to make us aware of the fragility of our cultural heritage or we will look away again.” Alfredo Delgado argues that “we can no longer say that the fires in the heritage are from less developed countries, as was said when the National Museum of Brazil burned down.” The specialist points out that “the disappearance of a cultural asset represents a misfortune not only because of its irreparable material loss, but it would also represent an adversity for every person, regardless of race and country, who is interested in culture and art for their own cultural identity represented by lost heritage.” Alfredo Delgado is emphatic in making an urgent call to those who make political and social decisions about the defense and conservation of cultural heritage: “This fire, as in the National Museum of Brazil, should set us a single objective: that governments and organizations put in place the necessary means to avoid these accidents so that we can transmit cultural heritage to present and future generations.” The reasons for the fire in Notre Dame As for the reasons for the fire of the French Cathedral, Delgado explains that “the fire is due to a chain of errors that result in the destruction of the attic of the Cathedral.” That is, according to Delgado there was “a bad study that underestimated the risk and that the response to the fire they designed was too slow to fight a fire in time. But there was also a very conservative approach to preserve the historic wooden structure in its unadulterated form. The designers were determined not to alter the attic with protective measures, such as automatic sprinklers and fire walls, it seems that they had miscalculated what needed to be protected from such an unusual, complex and irreplaceable building.” He adds that the “will to keep unchanged what was possible 850 years ago and what is adequate today, could have saved the attic and the spire.” Following his analysis, the expert adds that the “risk factors increased due to the renovation work that was being carried out in the attics, the structure was exposed to a great risk, because there were people working, scaffolding, lights, electrical systems, temporary elevators. The supervision of the works, contrary to what was said, was never carried out in the area after the workers left.” And he says that “the system they designed was based on the assumption that, if the cathedral ever burned down, the old oak woods in the attic would burn slowly, leaving enough time to fight the flames.” He also reveals that the “lack of ability to detect the fire in time was added to the source of it. A human error caused the flames not to be noticed before and the response to the fire wasted 31 critical minutes before it was alerted.” Another point that Delgado highlights is that fire alarms in France have never been automatically connected to fire services. One solution would have been the permanent presence of a fire brigade in the Cathedral, as is the case of other significant buildings that have a fire risk, such as the Palace of Justice, the National Assembly or the Louvre Museum. The fire specialist advances what will be the topics of his presentation: “in the first part, he will give an orientation about what Notre Dame represents for humanity; the socio-economic aspects of what the cathedral for tourism and the economy of Paris represents, and a review of the construction and architecture of the Gothic cathedrals”. In the second part, he will talk about preplanning of firefighters’ performance in Paris, fire development, operational difficulties, extinction problems and the criteria of success in the actions of firefighters. “And, finally, I will develop everything concerning the rescue of the Goods of Cultural Interest, during and after the fire, and of the work of stabilization and structural consolidation of urgency, which are being carried out”. – What action should governments and international organizations take to avoid disasters such as that of the Notre Dame Cathedral? I would tell you that disaster planning is necessary in cultural heritage, although it is not a simple task. It is necessary to have instruments, personal knowledge and financial resources that are not available to everyone. But, above all, the sensitization of governments and organizations is paramount, since little or nothing can be done if they are not aware of the risks we face and even less if they do not actively participate in the planning processes. Misfortunes such as these have to occur so that governments and organizations become aware of the risk to which our cultural heritage is exposed. We, from the Fire Foundation, have been working for 15 years to publicize the exposure of our Cultural Heritage to emergencies and designing proposals to avoid or minimize its consequences. Delgado says that in the city of Valparaíso a Congress was held together with Infobox Chile to transmit “our knowledge to the firefighters and personnel of Archives, Museums and Libraries.” He adds that “there is a growing awareness of these issues by some governments and organizations, but it will take years for us to see that our Cultural Heritage is more protected.”
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