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Fire guts treasured Danish landmark

In this morning image, it's easy to see that the fire at Børsen is in the central part of the city. Christianborg, the Danish Parliament, is on the right. (Noah Haynes/YJI)

Copenhagen, DENMARK – Early this morning, Børsen, the iconic 400-year-old former Danish stock exchange building caught fire.

The landmark structure is partially destroyed and was still burning at 7:30 p.m. There were no reports of injuries.

The spire, uniquely decorated with images of dragons, caught fire and collapsed into the building.

Throughout the day, crowds of people gathered around the police cordons to see the fire officers attempt to put out the blaze. Wind carried the thick black smoke, sometimes burning onlookers’ eyes and leaving clothes smelling of smoke. 

The blaze in the morning. (Noah Haynes/YJI)

The first sparks at Børsen, which was under restoration, may have come from the spire.

A spokesman for the Hovedstadens Beredskab, the capital region emergency services agency, said that when crews arrived, they could see smoke pouring out of the spire, so they think it may have started there.

The fire is under investigation and police have sealed off the building as a crime scene.

Aygushmaan Bordoloi, a young Copenhagen resident, called the fire “devastating.” Losing history is very sad for him, he said, as he stood looking at the smoldering structure.

Bordoloi used to walk regularly past Børsen, he said, but never really thought about it much until today.

People gathered in the morning, watching the fire. (Noah Haynes/YJI)

Firefighters saved half the building, the Hovedstadens Beredskab spokesman said, adding that the half near Christianborg, the Danish Parliament building, is gone, but the other side is safe.

The fire service arrived swiftly after being called by automatic alarm at 7:36 a.m. Firefighters summoned back up after finding a fire present, the spokesman said. Fire departments from the region and the National Fire Service joined the effort to help.

Børsen contained valuable historic paintings and other items.

There were great efforts to remove the art. The National Museum and the Forsvaret, or armed forces, oversaw the recovery of the paintings and people could be seen running in and out of the burning building trying to save the valuables.

The number of valuables saved is still currently unavailable. The Royal Armed Forces helped protect them outside of Børsen.

Orange flames are visible amid the smoke pouring out. (Noah Haynes/YJI)

At a press conference Tuesday, Camilla Jul Bastholm who is the unit manager for storage facility at the National Museum, said it is a small joy in a big sadness that several large works have been saved.

Several hundred art pieces were saved, Bastholm said.

Bystander Karen Thomsen also called the fire “devastating.” She said it was very moving to see people removing the valuables from Børsen.

People watching the fire in the late afternoon. (Noah Haynes/YJI)

Jakob Vedsted Andersen, who is the director of emergency management for the capital region, said at a press conference that 135 people were involved in the work to save Børsen from the flames.

Bente Møller with the Danish Patient Safety Authority, which oversees the nation’s medical sector,  also spoke at the press conference.

She said there are many dangerous fumes within a fire and advised people to keep a safe distance away. People who are experiencing problems from smoke inhalation should call a doctor, she said.

Noah Haynes is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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