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York Minster cathedral’s rise from the ashes of 1984 fire inspires hope for Notre Dame

Devastating scenes of the historic Notre Dame being ravaged by a huge blaze last night will bring back memories for those who remember the 1984 York Minster fire.

More than 100 firefighters rushed to the Minster when a lightning bolt set alight its south transept – collapsing its roof and causing £2.25m worth of damage in the early hours of 9 July.

But after a multi-million pound restoration project, the York Minster rose from the ashes and was returned to its former glory – inspiring hope for the 850-year-old cathedral in France.

Firemen survey the fire damage to the South Transept of York Minster after a huge inferno destroyed its roof and ravaged the cathedral in 1984

Firemen survey the fire damage to the South Transept of York Minster after a huge inferno destroyed its roof and ravaged the cathedral in 1984

A lightning bolt set alight the church's south transept, prompting 114 firefighters to rush to try and save the historic structure

A lightning bolt set alight the church’s south transept, prompting 114 firefighters to rush to try and save the historic structure

The south transept of York Minster at the height of the blaze. Like Notre Dame, the English cathedral as built from ancient stone and timber, which made tackling the blaze even more difficult for fire crews at the time

The south transept of York Minster at the height of the blaze. Like Notre Dame, the English cathedral as built from ancient stone and timber, which made tackling the blaze even more difficult for fire crews at the time

Firefighters who attended the blaze in 1984 said the roof collapsing - as it did in Paris last night - actually helped salvage parts of the building by ventilating smoke and heat

Firefighters who attended the blaze in 1984 said the roof collapsing – as it did in Paris last night – actually helped salvage parts of the building by ventilating smoke and heat

The building has been returned to its former glory after a £2.25million restoration project

The building has been returned to its former glory after a £2.25million restoration project

Like Notre Dame, the English church was built from ancient stone and timber, which made tackling the blaze even more difficult for fire crews at the time. 

But those who attended the blaze in 1984 said the roof collapsing – as it did in Paris last night – actually helped salvage parts of the building by ventilating smoke and heat and stopping the flames spreading. 

Alan Stow, 79, divisional commander of the fire and rescue service at York during the fire, told The Times: ‘There was a suggestion that the only way to stop the fire spreading was for the heat and smoke to be ventilated.

As darkness fell on Paris on Monday evening the ruined cathedral was illuminated by the flames still burning in the roof as firefighters battled on against the inferno

As darkness fell on Paris on Monday evening the ruined cathedral was illuminated by the flames still burning in the roof as firefighters battled on against the inferno

A shard of the cathedral's spire plummets through the air as it collapsed earlier after the fire burned through its foundations

A shard of the cathedral’s spire plummets through the air as it collapsed on Monday evening after the fire chewed through its foundations

The scaffolding at the top of the church and the wooden frame of the building was said to be completely ablaze by a cathedral spokesperson

The scaffolding at the top of the church and the wooden frame of the building was said to be completely ablaze by a cathedral spokesperson

‘The roof supports were very badly weakened and with a turntable ladder jet carefully positioned it managed to create a domino effect and the roof trusses tumbled down on to the floor. It was a dead easy job once the roof collapsed to put the fire out.’

But, unlike in Paris, the fire crews who rushed to the city centre from across North Yorkshire managed to control the flames within a few hours and the majority of the Minster was saved.

The York church was rebuilt using traditional materials and stonemasons and carpenters skilled in medieval construction as part of the multi-million pound restoration job.   

Like Notre Dame, the minster has a famous Rose Window – a stained glass masterpiece which looks over the centre of York.

Chaos of rubble and debris inside the 13th century south transept of York Minster after its roof caved in following the blaze in 1984

Chaos of rubble and debris inside the 13th century south transept of York Minster after its roof caved in following the blaze in 1984

Eerie: inside the fire-damaged York Minster, where more than £2.25million worth of damage was caused by the blaze 35 years ago

Eerie: inside the fire-damaged York Minster, where more than £2.25million worth of damage was caused by the blaze 35 years ago

The window stayed in place, despite the fire raging around it, but its 73 panels, containing 7,000 pieces of stained glass had shattered into about 40,000 pieces.

It was initially thought that the windows at Paris had exploded, but on Tuesday morning the word was that the windows have remained intact.     

Lord Mayor of York Keith Orrell has said he will be writing to the Mayor of Paris on behalf of the City of York.

‘Watching the coverage from Paris of the fire at Notre Dame must remind everyone in York of the Minster fire 35 years ago,’ he said.

‘I’m sure we all have great sympathy for the people of Paris and France. We welcomed the French Ambassador to the Mansion House a few weeks ago and enjoyed his company tremendously.’

Much of the top of the structure fell victim to the inferno including the famous spire and part of the dome at the back of the church

Much of the top of the Notre Dame fell victim to the inferno including the famous spire and part of the dome at the back of the church

Teams of firefighters from across Paris were called in to try and put out the fire after it spread quickly through the cathedral on Monday evening

Teams of firefighters from across Paris were called in to try and put out the fire after it spread quickly through the cathedral on Monday evening

Historians have also noted the similarities between the two fires.

TV history presenter Dan Snow said on Twitter: ‘It’s overwhelming but remember that York Minster and Hampton Court burned in the 80s, Windsor Castle in the 90s and Cutty Sark in the 00s. Dresden’s Frauenkirche, the Catherine Palace … What we build, we can rebuild. Their essence endures.’

Prayers for Notre Dame were said at the Compline service at York Minster on Monday night and will continue throughout Tuesday.

The fire in Paris also has echoes of the Windsor Castle fire on November 20, 1992. Part of the building, one of the Queen’s official residences, was wrecked when a blaze started in the first floor Private Chapel. 

The fire in Paris also has echoes of the devastating Windsor Castle fire on November 20, 1992 (dozens of firefighters at the scene)

The fire in Paris also has echoes of the devastating Windsor Castle fire on November 20, 1992 (dozens of firefighters at the scene)

The inferno damaged more than 100 rooms including the vast medieval St George’s Hall (pictured)

The inferno damaged more than 100 rooms including the vast medieval St George’s Hall (pictured)

Around 1,500 builders were drafted in and a £36.5 million repair job saw the 14th-century building reopen in 1997

Around 1,500 builders were drafted in and a £36.5 million repair job saw the 14th-century building reopen in 1997

The inferno damaged more than 100 rooms including the vast medieval St George’s Hall. 

Around 1,500 builders were drafted in and a £36.5 million repair job saw the 14th-century building reopen in 1997.

It was described as one of the greatest historic building project completed in the UK in the 20th century. Its restoration will serve as more inspiration that Notre Dame can be restored. 

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