On 7.18 the N.Y. Times posted an interactive investigation piece about the possible causes of the 4.15.19 Notre Dame fire, and how Parisian firefighters managed to put it out before the whole cathedral collapsed, which, the article reports, was something that damn near happened save for the efforts of certain valiant fireman.

The co-authors of the article are Elian Peltier, James Glanz, Mika Gröndahl, Weiyi Cai, Adam Nossiter and Liz Alderman.

For me the most interesting portion is the following two paragraphs:

I know nothing about the odds that a short circuit (either “in the electrified bells of the spire or in the elevators that had been set up on the scaffolding to help workers carry out renovations”) might have been the cause of the blaze. For all I know an electric spark was the cause. But a hunch tells me this is a red herring. The fact that the second paragraph ends with what is presented as a remote third possibility — “cigarette butts found on the scaffolding, apparently left by workers” — tells me this is almost certainly the most likely cause.

But investigators and the government of French president Emmanuel Macron don’t want to blame cigarette smokers, because that would be the same as blaming the entire proletariat work force, which Macron wants the support of in the next election.

But try to imagine the foreman of the workers who were puffing away on the cathedral scaffolding. You’re dealing with ancient timbers in the attic and the possibility that only a few accidental embers could ignite a catastrophic blaze. What kind of a moron foreman would say to his workers, “It’s okay, guys…unfiltered Gauloises are a French adult male birthright… smoke ’em if you got’ em.”

So far only one certifiable villain has been discovered — a security employee who didn’t call the fire department when a smoke alarm sounded, and who sent a guard to the wrong building, a side chapel called the “sacristy”. The guard found nothing. Excerpt: :Instead of calling the fire department, the security employee called his boss but didn’t reach him. The manager called back and eventually deciphered the mistake. He called the guard: Leave the sacristy and run to the main attic.”