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Rome Reports

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St. Peter's Basilica has fire prevention measures to avoid an incident like Notre Dame

The Vatican is prepared to act within a few minutes to put out an eventual fire in St. Peter's Basilica, the Sistine Chapel or the Vatican Museums. 

In these places, smoke detectors are connected to the firefighters' station in the Vatican. They say they could be ready to put out an eventual fire in fewer than five or 10 minutes. 

Official Coordinator, Vatican Firefighters
"Everything depends on our rate of reaction. If the fire has been lit for more than a certain length of time, we won't arrive at the beginning of the fire, but at an advanced stage. In terms of security, groundbreaking systems guarantee that we can react as short a time as possible. Arriving as soon as possible in a fire means extinguishing the principle of fire."

Paolo de Angelis coordinates the Vatican firefighters, a team of 36 people on continuous alert. He explains a fire starting in St. Peter's Basilica would be difficult, because the basilica isn't made up of much wood.

Official Coordinator, Vatican Firefighters
"The cover material is not made of wood. The main vault is made of bricks. The ceiling is made of reinforced concrete, and there are some wood pieces that support the roof. But, these buildings are treated with special fire-retardant material."

The patron saint of the Vatican's firefighters is Pope St. Leo IV. A fresco painted by Raphael remembers that when a terrible fire was about to devastate the basilica and surrounding houses, this saint blessed the town from St. Peter's balcony and the fire miraculously went out.

Since then, with his help, and with that of 200 smoke detectors and 36 firefighters, there has been no serious devastation in the Vatican.