Photo: Wikipedia Commons License. A photograph of a major fire in Massueville, Quebec, Canada. The fire was so violent that firefighters had to focus their efforts on saving the adjacent church instead of attacking the involved building. This photograph is a good example of what can be done with specialized fire photography, as the public does not have access to this extraordinary point of view and it was necessary to have fire photographer credentials
22 Apr 2024

Historical buildings seem to have a fire problem despite elaborate fire protection plans


B;rsen, Copenhagen, before the 2024 fire. Another tragic addition to the list of European heritage buildings ravaged by fire during renovation emerged last week when the historic former stock exchange in Copenhagen went up in flames.

Adorned with its notable spire of four interwoven dragon tails, Denmark’s iconic Børsen building was cloaked in scaffolding in anticipation of its upcoming 400th anniversary celebration this autumn, marking one of Europe's earliest trading floors.

The cause of the fire, which erupted Tuesday morning and continued to smolder through Thursday, reducing the spire to ashes and consuming half the structure, remains undetermined by Danish authorities. 

Firefighters in the Danish capital suggested the fire likely originated in an area undergoing renovation work.

"Renovation exposes these ancient monumental landmarks. You're dealing with heavy timber structures that have stood for centuries, dry as can be," noted Ed Lewis, a veteran of historic building restoration in the UK.

 "It's akin to a tinderbox, just waiting for a spark. Then you factor in the human element", he said to the Financial Times on Friday the 19th, 2024. 



Protecting one of Russia´s largest historical monuments was a gigantic feat - and cost 


CTIF.org previously reported in 2021 on the work of fire protecting one of  Russia´s largest historical monuments, the The Bolshoi Theatre. 

The complex of its main buildings, which include the four-story Khomyakov House as a service building on Petrovka street and two buildings in Kopievsky Lane: one is a seven-story administrative building, the other is an almost inconspicuous engineering building. 

There is a pump station that supplies the fire and service water-pipes, transformer and distribution electrical substations, air-ventilation chambers and a chiller plant that serve the Bolshoi Theatre complex that also includes the New Stage building of the Bolshoi Theatre on Bolshaya Dmitrovka street.

In the historic building on its ten above-ground and five underground floors there is a space for two auditoriums, the orchestra pit, three large rehearsal halls and many big and small service rooms packed with cutting-edge fire protection systems.

Each of the buildings of the complex has its own entangled layout, its own cellar stores, its own features and fire risks.



Theatre fire protected for 90 years through a plan implemented in 1935


Paramilitary Fire Division for protection of the Bolshoi Theatre was founded on May 21, 1935. Since then, this division has been inextricably linked with the main classical scene of Russia.  Its fighters guarded the Bolshoi Theatre in the tragic days of 1941, when the enemy air forces dropped hundreds of incendiary bombs on the city bristling with anti-aircraft guns. Members of the fire division regularly extinguished the bombs on the theatre building and roofs of adjacent houses.

However, on October 28, 1941 a bomber broke through to Moscow and dropped a 500-kg high-explosive bomb on the Bolshoi Theatre, which flew between the columns under the portico pediment, broke through the facade wall and exploded in the foyer. 

The explosion caused considerable damage to the building, partially collapsing the wall of the main facade and foyer slabs, crashing the balustrade and the grand stairs steps. A paramilitary fire department fighter Yakov Tyunikov perished. The firefighters, who also were on duty, were engaged in combating the numerous fires that broke out at the scene of the explosion, preventing them from spreading further. The memory of the fallen Yakov Tyunikov is immortalized on the memorial plaque of the Bolshoi Theatre.


Notre Dame fire in 2019.Flickr Commons License

One  historic building per day goes up in flames around the world


Ingval Maxwell, a Scottish consultant in architectural conservation, estimates that globally, about one historic building falls victim to fire each day. Unlike modern structures equipped with fire-resistant features such as special doors and compartmentation to halt the spread of flames, centuries-old buildings were not designed with fire safety in mind.

"Historic buildings are particularly susceptible to fire. They often have interconnected voids throughout, especially in roof spaces, allowing fire to rapidly propagate," explained Maxwell, who led a pan-European initiative on fire safety in heritage buildings during the 1990s and 2000s.

The recent fire in Copenhagen has drawn comparisons to the devastating fire at Notre-Dame in 2019. Local officials from the Danish capital plan to travel to Paris to glean insights on restoring such an iconic structure. The mayors of the two cities have already discussed leveraging this restoration to revitalize broader areas of the capitals.

While the exact cause of the Notre-Dame fire remains unknown, two main theories suggest either a short circuit in electrical cables or a discarded cigarette. Compounded by issues with the alarm system and human error, it took over half an hour to alert the fire brigade, by which time the blaze had become intensely fierce.

"Within minutes, a fire can reach temperatures of 1,000 degrees Celsius," Maxwell noted.



Brand i Børsen, seen fo the water. Danish stock exchange built like a gigantic copper oven


Mads Damsbo, head of Christiansborg Palace, the historic parliament building adjacent to the former stock exchange, described Børsen as a "long, low building with a huge copper roof."

"It's akin to having an oven with the fire contained within," he added.

Experts emphasize that fires often reveal underlying deficiencies in fire detection and prevention systems, as well as safety protocols. The 1992 fire at Windsor Castle serves as a poignant example, ignited by a spotlight sparking a fire in the indoor curtains.


Sprinklers deemed "unsightly"  in the old Windsor castle


"In essence, there was no fire sprinkler system because it was deemed unsightly for such a historic structure. The fire quickly escalated beyond control. One can't help but wonder if it could have been prevented," reflected Lewis, now at Dartmouth College in the US.

Lewis noted that at Dartmouth, founded in 1769 and an Ivy League institution, stringent measures are in place. Whenever live flames are used, someone must remain in the building for eight hours afterward to mitigate fire risks. All "hot work," such as welding or using live flames, requires a permit.



San Francisco earthquake and fire 1906. Long list of tragic "heritage fires"


The Business Insider lists 10 famous historical building that had been destroyed by fire as of April 16, 2019. Follow the link for more interesting details about the fires and following restauration work. 


  • The Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, France
  • Other historic buildings have been completely destroyed in fires.
  • Museums in Brazil and New Dehli have lost priceless artifacts due to fire damage.
  • One of the last remaining covered bridges in California was destroyed in the Camp Fire in 2018.
  • Visit INSIDER.com for more stories.


Atlas Magazine also lists several fires in historical monuments: 


Artemis Temple, 356 BC. Selçuk, Turkey


The Capitol, 69  AD, Rome, Italy


The Doge's Palace and Saint Mark's Basilica, 976 AD, Venezia, Italy


Globe Theatre, 1613, London, UK


Westminster Palace, 1834, London,UK


Strasbourg Cathedral, 1870, Strasbourg, France


 Reims Cathedral, 1914, Reims, France


Reichstag building, 1933, Berlin, Germany


Saint-Pierre Cathedral, 1972, Nantes, France


Windsor Castle, 1992, England


La Fenice Theatre in Venezia, 1836 and 1996, Italy


The National Museum of Brazil, 2018, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


Photo Credit: 

Cover Photo: Convent fire in Quebec, Canada. Wikipedia Commons License. 27 October 2006

This photograph was taken during a major fire involving an abandoned convent in Massueville, Quebec, Canada. The fire was so violent that firefighters had to focus their efforts on saving the adjacent church instead of attacking the involved building. This photograph is a good example of what can be done with specialized fire photography, as the public does not have access to this extraordinary point of view and it was necessary to have fire photographer credentials to take pictures from there.

Source: Own work

Author: Sylvain Pedneault; edited by jjron.



2nd photo in text: 

Wikipedia Commons License

The Old Stock Exchange Building "Børsen" in Copenhagen, which burned down on April 16, 2024. By Jebulon - Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49932765


Third and fourth photo in text: 

Photo Courtesy of of The Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. 


5th Photo in text: 

Public domain image of the San Francisco earthquake and fire in 1906. Downloaded from Picryl.com/.


6th Photo in text.  The Notre Dame fire in 2019. Flickr.com Commons License. 

By: manhhai

oke and flames shoot through the roof of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. As much as two-thirds of the roof was ravaged.

Huge fire scars beloved Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

By Adam Nossiter and Aurelien Breeden Updated 10:03 pm PDT, Monday, April 15, 2019



7th photo in text:  Wikipedia Commons License

Fire at the Copenhagen Stock Exchange (Børsen) and home for Confederation of Danish Industry (Dansk Industri) at April 16th, 2024

Dansk: Brand i Børsen, København, som også er hjemsted for DI - Dansk Industri, den 16. april 2024

Date: 16 April 2024, 09:37:05

Source: Own work

Author: Penguin

Camera location

Image removed.55° 40′ 37.91″ N, 12° 34′ 52.96″ E  Image removed. Image removed.