Fire investigators in Paris are beginning their work to establish the cause of the April 15 fire that destroyed the roof and burned into the interior of the 850-year-old Notre Dame Cathedral.

Renovation work was under way on the landmark. Early reports suggested that the fire may have begun near scaffolding that was installed to give workers access to a 19th century spire that was slated for repair. The spire collapsed during the fire.

The fire destroyed the roof of the 850-year-old cathedral. The north and south towers (left) remain standing, but the 19th-century spire (right of center) collapsed. Credit: notredamecathedralparis.comThe fire destroyed the roof of the 850-year-old cathedral. The north and south towers (left) remain standing, but the 19th-century spire (right of center) collapsed. Credit: notredamecathedralparis.comThe fire spread rapidly through the cathedral's attic, a network of timbers and supporting beams known as the "forest." The centuries old, highly flammable wood rapidly ignited and spread the blaze, initial reports suggested.

Fire safety and suppression are the topics of multiple engineering standards, many of which are available at Engineering360. A sampling includes the following.

For more than 100 years, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has published a single-source handbook on the state of the art in fire protection and fire prevention practices. The original version was published in 1896 and had 183 pages. The 19th edition, released in 2008, is the most current. It clocks in at more than 3,200 pages. The Handbook is organized around the six major strategies that NFPA says are the building blocks of a systems approach to fire safety:

• Prevention of ignition

• Design to slow early fire growth

• Detection and alarm

• Suppression

• Confinement of fire

• Evacuation of occupants

Fire Performance Analysis for Buildings by Robert W. Fitzgerald and Brian J. Meacham emphasizes that a building fire is dynamic and poses challenges to fire defenses and risks to people and building functions. The book organizes the complex interactions into an analytical framework to evaluate virtually any building built under almost any regulatory jurisdiction or era.

Fire consumed the roof of Notre-Dame Cathedral on April 15. Credit: Hubert Hitier/AFP/Getty via AxiosFire consumed the roof of Notre-Dame Cathedral on April 15. Credit: Hubert Hitier/AFP/Getty via AxiosSystematic, logical procedures evaluate individual component behavior and integrate results to understand holistic performance. An Interactive Performance Information chart structures time-related interactions among the fire, fire defenses, and associated risks. Key features include:

  • An emphasis on fire performance analysis for new or existing buildings.
  • Fire dynamics calculation methods with qualitative methods to form a more complete understanding of the effects of hostile fire characteristics on building performance.
  • A description of fire ground operations for engineers with no fire service experience. An analysis evaluates ways the site and building design help or hinder manual fire suppression.
  • The importance of a transition from traditional structural requirements to modern calculation-based structural analysis and design for fire conditions. Structural concepts are described for non-structural engineers to enable integration of roles of each profession into comprehensive performance evaluations. The book addresses techniques of managing uncertainty to improve understanding and communication with professionals of other disciplines.

BSI - BS DD 240-1 Fire Safety Engineering in Buildings Part 1: Guide to the Application of Fire Safety Engineering Principles was released in 1997 by BSI Group in the UK. This British standards document provides a framework for an engineering approach to the achievement of building fire safety by giving guidance on the application of scientific and engineering principles to the protection of people and property from fire.

The manual, Structural Fire Protection: Manual of Practice (Manual and Report #78), from the American Society of Civil Engineers, was released in 1992 and remains current. It is intended to provide a basis for the development of new standards for the calculation of the fire resistance of structural members. It provides information on current techniques and developments to improve fire safety in buildings.

Although it deals mainly with structural fire safety, the manual includes discussion of related subjects. The manual deals with various aspects related to structural fire protection, including building codes and the role of structural fire protection; the development of fire in enclosures and the effect of fire on the behavior of concrete, steel and wood, including the properties of these materials at elevated temperatures; methods for calculating the fire resistance of various structural members; and the development of fire and the calculation of fire resistance using mathematical models, respectively.