How Canada’s Parliament buildings are protected against fire during major renovations

Click to play video: 'Notre Dame Cathedral blaze raises questions about fighting fires in historic structures' Notre Dame Cathedral blaze raises questions about fighting fires in historic structures
WATCH: Notre Dame Cathedral blaze raises questions about fighting fires in historic structures – Apr 16, 2019

The image of the soaring spire atop the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, collapsing into billowing smoke and wild flames, was stomach-churning for those enchanted by the historic building.

The church, which is over 800 years old, hosts a plethora of history and art in French culture.

While there’s no official cause of the fire, officials are looking into whether it was caused by renovation efforts.

WATCH: Restoring great monuments comes with risk

Click to play video: 'Restoring great monuments comes with risk' Restoring great monuments comes with risk
Restoring great monuments comes with risk – Apr 16, 2019

The fire raised questions about the safety of Canada’s own historic buildings — including Parliament itself, which is undergoing its own renovation.

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Public Services and Procurement Canada  (PSPC) previously told Global News that every aspect of the building is going to be upgraded from the exterior stone shell, the copper roof and the steel structure to the building systems themselves.

READ MORE: Parliament Hill’s Centre Block closing for a decade for renovations

After the fire, officials from PSPC outlined what safeguards they have in place to protect the historic building.

“One of the key things the Centre Block is undergoing right now as part of decommissioning the building is taking out all of the precious art and artifacts out of the building,” said Rob Wright, assistant deputy minister of the Parliamentary Precinct Branch.

Firefighters and priests spent over an hour passing precious artifacts — such as infamous Catholic relics — hand-by-hand before the fire spread to the area at Notre Dame Cathedral.

READ MORE: Personnel had just 66 minutes to grab priceless artifacts before Notre Dame went up in flames

Wright says some of the art will go into storage, but others will continue being on display at other buildings.

War murals in the Senate chamber, which depict scenes from the First World War, are among the priorities.

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“We’ll be carefully moving those to the War Museum so that Canadians and international visitors can continue to enjoy them,” he explained.

Other art pieces will be moved to the Senate of Canada building or to the West Block.

Along with moving the priceless pieces of art, Wright says there are other, more modern processes in place to protect from fire.

“And that ranges from having 24-7 patrols who watch, working closely with Ottawa fire services to ensure that they’re well aware of all of the systems and protocols in place,” Wright explained.

He also said that standpipes — water piping in modern, multiple-story buildings to which firehoses can be attached — can be hooked up to the water lines and distribute water to the whole building, if needed.

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Along with that, there are more modern heat detection and alarm systems and fire control panels.

READ MORE: Notre Dame to be rebuilt in 5 years, Emmanuel Macron pledges

“Part of modernizing these buildings is making sure that they are brought up to all-new modern codes” like fire and seismic codes, Wright said.

Another historic building under renovation in Canada is Toronto’s Casa Loma.

CEO of Liberty Entertainment Group Nick Di Donato said he was thankful that nothing like what happened to the Notre Dame happened during the castle’s renovation.

“In the past 10 years, the castle has gone through a tremendous restoration and retrofit and so we’ve been involved in five years in the interior restoration,” Di Donato told Global News. “And I said ‘thank God nothing happened here in that period,’ because that’s usually the riskiest period, during construction when you turn off systems and so on, to do the infrastructure repairs.”

— with files from Global News’ Shallima Maharaj 

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