BOSTON (AP) — As Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris recovers from a devastating fire , a Massachusetts city is remembering the blaze that consumed their historic Notre Dame church as it was being renovated decades ago.
The Fall River firefighters union tweeted Monday about the fire at the Notre Dame de Lourdes Church in the old mill city in the early afternoon of May 11, 1982.
The church, which was dedicated in 1906 and was designed to echo the Parisian landmark, had been undergoing a $1 million renovation when dry timbers in the roof were accidentally ignited. Within an hour, both of the church's more than 200-foot (60-meter) bell towers were engulfed in flames. Forty-one children inside the church had to be evacuated.
"The fire department responded quickly, but their efforts were hampered by strong winds, intense heat from the fire and low water pressure in the hydrants," Local 1314 of the International Association of Firefighters wrote in a series of tweets recalling the blaze.
Officials in Paris have said Monday's fire was likely related a 6 million euro ($6.8 million) renovation project on the building's roof. The 12th century cathedral lost its spire and its roof to the blaze.
Fall River's conflagration nearly 40 years ago took firefighters more than three hours to control, as flames quickly swept the neighborhood in the gusty conditions.
Some 27 homes and businesses across five city blocks were damaged, according to news reports at the time. Residents fled with what belongings they could grab. City streets were shut down and nearby highways were gridlocked. Then-Gov. Edward King called in the National Guard to keep order.
One minor injury to a firefighter was reported, and at least 100 families were displaced. The damage citywide was estimated in the tens of millions of dollars, according to news reports.
In the end, all that remained of the church, which had once been the center for the city's sizeable French-Canadian community, was a granite shell. The bell towers, massive stained glass windows and treasured artwork, including a 77-foot-by-55-foot (23-meter-by-17-meter) ceiling painting by Italian artist Ludovico Cremonini called "The Last Judgment," were all lost.
It was actually the second time tragedy had struck the church, which was originally built in wood in 1891 but was rebuilt in granite after a fire in 1893.
"It took 16 years to build and 15 minutes to burn," Normand Grenier, the church's assistant pastor, lamented in an interview with a local television station at the time.
The church was rebuilt again after the 1982 blaze, but in a more subdued, brick style.
The new Notre Dame de Lourdes church reopened in 1986, but the congregation saw attendance dwindle year after year until it merged with another city parish and was renamed St. Bernadette's in 2012.
But even that wasn't enough. Almost $3 million in debt and needing $1.5 million in capital improvements, the merged parish was shuttered by the diocese last year.
The church's final Mass was celebrated Aug. 5.