NEWS

Quebec museum fire: Quick-thinking staff saved artifacts

09/16/2014 11:29 EDT | Updated 06/16/2017 00:53 EDT
Quebec's Museum of Civilization says a stroke of luck and fast work by staff saved its collection from a fire that broke out on the building's roof Monday afternoon. 

"I think the quick reaction of everyone saved the collection," François Plamondon, the museum’s director of material resources, told Quebec AM Tuesday morning. 

"There will be some work to be done, but every piece will be monitored closely by the specialists and I don’t think there’s permanent damage."

The fire broke out Monday at around 1 p.m. ET. It's believed that an engine on a motorized work platform caught fire, spreading to the roof of the building.

It took nearly 40 firefighters several hours to contain the fire. 

The museum, better known in the province as the Musée de la Civilisation, had been undergoing renovations. Plumes of smoke could be seen rising from the roof of the building on Dalhousie Street in Old Quebec City.

It was closed at the time, but 200 employees were inside the building when the fire broke out. 

Before fire officials arrived and evacuated the building, staff rushed to throw tarps over the artifacts, Plamondon said.

When everyone was allowed back into the building after the fire was extinguished, they quickly moved items from waterlogged rooms into a humidity-controlled environment.

That included the museum's collection of First Nations artifacts, which were in a room adjacent to the one where the fire broke out. He said there is some water damage to some artifacts, but it appears to be repairable. 

"We were able to start maybe around 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. last night to make sure that we had clean air coming in to the museum," Plamondon said. 

"Last night, we had the air inspected and all the levels were normal."

The museum will remain closed today and Wednesday, but Plamondon said they plan to reopen the doors on Thursday. 

“We’ll do our best so that the setback will be as short as possible," he said. 

Quebec's Minister of Culture Hélène David said Tuesday she was impressed by how quickly the museum responded to the emergency.

She said it's not yet clear if financial assistance will be needed to restore the museum, but there is an investigation underway. 

David also encouraged more people to come to the museum and see the artifacts that now have an even more impressive story of survival. 

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