Notre Dame was a mere 30 minutes away from being completely destroyed by the fire

Notre Dame was a mere 30 minutes away from being completely destroyed by the fire

The raging fire that devastated the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, France was about half a hour away from completely destroying the landmark, authorities say.

The BBC reports that Laurent Nuñez, France's deputy interior minister, praised the work of a group of around 20 firefighters who he says "risked their own lives", explaining that their "courage and determination" was vital in ensuring that the cathedral can be rebuilt some day.

Here is the devastating moment that the Notre Dame's iconic spire collapsed in the flames:

"We now know it all came down to 15-30 minutes," explained Nuñez, adding that over the next two days, police and fire services would be assessing the damage caused by the fire. He said that these firefighters had the very important task of ensuring that the blaze did not reach the belfries.

If the fire had got to that point, there would be nothing from stopping bells weighing as much as 13 tonnes from tearing through the remaining structure, leaving the legendary Notre Dame as little more than ash.

French president Emmanuel Macron also took the time to praise this team of firefighters, and underlined his belief that the Notre Dame would be completely rebuilt in five years, though Eric Fischer, head of the foundation that has pledged to restore the 850-year-old cathedral, says the process could take "decades".

Notre Dame Fire Credit: Getty

Although at this point, it's unclear what started the flames at the iconic French cathedral, with Paris public prosecutor Rémy Heitz at the moment "favouring the theory of an accident", around 50 investigators are currently looking into how the fire started.

"What we know at this stage is that there was an initial alarm at 6:20 p.m., followed by a procedure to verify this but no fire as found. Then, there was a second alarm at 6:43 p.m. and at that point a fire was detected in the structure. The investigation is going to be long and complex. We are in the process of interviewing witnesses."

Notre Dame Fire Credit: Getty

Meanwhile, France's culture minister Franck Riester revealed which artifacts had survived the fire and which hadn't - with the cathedral's main organ reportedly seeming "to be quite affected" by the blaze. While most of the paintings were free from fire damage, Riester said there could be some smoke damage.

"The large paintings, at first glance, have not been affected by the fire. But, often in these situations, there is water damage," Riester explained.

Notre Dame organ Credit: Getty

According to MailOnline, a source close to the inquiry into the Notre Dame fire says that the blaze could have started due to lighting and wiring equipment at the cathedral, with restoration taking place at the time. Investigators have reportedly already interviewed many of the restorers.

"The fear [from prosecutors] is that a small fire began in the rood where they were working," the source continued. "The irony is that the restorers had just begun working on the spire which collapsed along with much of the roof."