Updated 5.15pm.

A fire that broke out Thursday in the spire of the cathedral in the northern French city Rouen is "under control", local fire services said, just hours after the city's mayor shared a photo of a column of smoke rising from the Gothic landmark.

A section of plastic sheeting covering renovation work 120 metres (400 feet) up the cathedral's spire caught fire, though officials have not said how the blaze started.

The departmental fire service raised the alarm around midday and 40 vehicles and 70 firefighters responded to the scene.

The fire is "under control but not out", said local fire chief Stephane Gouezec, adding the fire would only be declared "extinguished" when firefighters confirmed there were no more hotspots.

Three workers on site suffered from mild smoke inhalation when they tried to put out the fire with extinguishers, according to local authorities.

"Fire broke out at the tip of the spire, which isn't made of wood, but rather metal," the prefecture of the Seine-Maritime department told AFP.

A fire in progress at Rouen cathedral. Photo: AFP

The blaze started in an area where workers decontaminate themselves on leaving the site, said Rouen Archbishop Dominique Lebrun, saying he "felt deeply for the archdiocese staff and the public".

The Culture Ministry has ruled out any risk of collapse, and said an assessment was underway to determine if "two works of art" were damaged by firefighters using water to douse the flames.

A fire in the wooden frame of the roof was behind the massive 2019 damage to the world-famous Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, where repairs are only now nearing completion. 

Construction began on Rouen's cathedral in the 12th Century, according to its website, with work lasting several centuries.

Renovations have been ongoing since 2017, according to Normandy’s culture authority.

Lightning struck the cathedral's spire in 1822, destroying the wooden structure which was rebuilt using cast iron then steel in the early 19th-century.

Some of the renovation work involved creating firewalls within the wooden structure to prevent it from suffering the same fate as Notre Dame, as well as reinforcing the roofing vaults. 



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