Spire collapses as fire rips through Copenhagen's Old Stock Exchange

ByStephanie Halasz, Antonia Mortensen and Lauren Said-Moorhouse, CNNWire
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
Fire rips through Old Stock Exchange building in Copenhagen as people try to rescue artwork
One of the oldest buildings in Copenhagen, Denmark, that was built in the 17th century has become engulfed in flames

COPENHAGEN -- A huge fire has engulfed Copenhagen's Old Stock Exchange, one of the Danish capital's most famous landmarks, causing its spire to collapse as staff and citizens scrambled to rescue paintings and historic artifact from the blaze.

Stunned commuters and onlookers watched as the raging fire could be seen swirling around the building's distinctive 56-meter spire - shaped as the tail of four entwined dragons - moments before it collapsed and fell into the street below.

Some passersby even joined emergency services to run inside the burning building and help carry large Renaissance paintings and other objects away from the blaze.

Denmark's Deputy Prime Minister, Troels Lund Poulsen, called the fire "our own Notre Dame moment," referring to the blaze that destroyed the roof and spire of the Paris cathedral, five years ago almost to the day.

The fire began at around 8.30 a.m. local time Tuesday, a Copenhagen fire department chief told CNN. Shortly before 11 a.m., he said nearly half of the building had been destroyed by fire.

"We have tried to rescue a lot of historic paintings that were inside the building and the historic furniture," Jakob Vedsted Andersen, an executive director at the Greater Copenhagen fire and rescue service, told CNN. He said it was "way too soon" to speculate about the causes of the blaze.

Copenhagen police have told people to avoid the area and there have been no reported injuries so far.

People were in the building when the fire started but they were all evacuated, said a police spokesperson who added that military personnel were at the scene to support fire-fighting efforts.

A "piece of Danish history" is on fire, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said, calling the building's cultural heritage "irreplaceable."

The Brsen building has been at the heart of Danish business since the 17th century.

The old stock exchange - located only a few minutes walk from Christiansborg Palace - dates back to 1625. It was built in the Dutch Renaissance style at the request of King Christian IV and had recently been undergoing renovations with its facade covered in scaffolding and protective coverings.

Denmark's culture minister Jakob Engel-Schmidt said 400 years of cultural heritage had been damaged.

"How touching it is to see how the employees at Brsen, good people from the emergency services and passers-by work together to rescue art treasures and iconic images from the burning building," he added in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

The Danish Chamber of Commerce, which is based in the building, described the scene as "a terrible sight."

Emergency services were working to control the fire but it had spread to all floors through the elevator shaft.

Frank Trier Mikkelsen, operations manager at the Greater Copenhagen fire department, said the fire is burning "violently" inside the building, according to TV 2, a government-owned TV channel.

Forty firefighters were inside the building, with valuables being rescued, TV 2 reported.

Mikkelsen told the Danish broadcaster that the fire is of a type that emergency managers dread, explaining parts of the building's roof need to be removed to extinguish it.

He added machines have been called in to remove some of the copper roof, as the water just bounces off it.

This is a developing story and will be updated.