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Fire ravages Copenhagen's 17th-century Old Stock Exchange, toppling iconic spire

Fire ravages Copenhagen's 17th-century Old Stock Exchange, toppling iconic spire


COPENHAGEN, Denmark A fire raged through one of Copenhagen's oldest buildings on Tuesday, causing the iconic 17th-century spire of the Old Stock Exchange to collapse as passersby rushed to help emergency services save priceless paintings and other valuable items.

Danish Culture Minister Jakob Engel-Schmidt said it was “touching” to see how many people lent a helping hand “to save artistic treasures and iconic images from the burning building.” A man jumped off his bike on his way to work to help.

Brian Mikkelsen, head of the Danish Chamber of Commerce, headquartered at the Old Stock Exchange, and his staff were seen going through a binder of photos of paintings to be preserved. The works were transported to the nearby parliament and the Danish National Archives around the corner.

“We were able to save a lot of things,” Mikkelsen told reporters, visibly moved. “It’s a national disaster.”

He also helped save valuable items from the flames and said they had to use tools, including a crowbar, to remove them.

The fire broke out on Tuesday morning in the copper roof of the Old Stock Exchange, or Boersen, and spread to a large part of the building and the roof, parts of which also collapsed, and destroyed the interior of the building, said fire department spokesman Jakob Vedsted Andersen.

“The fire is still not under control,” Vedsted Andersen said, adding that half of the building had been destroyed and collapsed. He said there was no risk of the fire spreading to other buildings. Firefighters said they expected to be on scene within the next 24 hours.

Tommy Laursen of Copenhagen police said it was too early to say what caused the fire and that they could enter the building in “a few days”.

Firefighters who were believed to have pumped water from the nearby canal were seen spraying water through the door of the Golden Hall of the Old Stock Exchange, used for gala dinners, conferences and other events and where many paintings were hung.

The building, located next to Christiansborg Palace where parliament sits, is a popular tourist attraction. Its distinctive spire, shaped like the tails of four intertwined dragons, reached a height of 56 meters (184 feet).

Huge plumes of smoke rose above downtown Copenhagen and could be seen from southern Sweden, separated by a narrow waterway.

Ambulances were on scene but no casualties were reported. A spokesperson for the company working on the building renovation said the carpenters who were working on the roof were all out.

Up to 90 members of a military unit were deployed from a nearby base to cordon off the area and “secure valuables”, the Danish armed forces said.

This photo combination shows the old Copenhagen Stock Exchange in 2019, at the top, and on fire on Tuesday at the bottom.  The building is located next to Christiansborg Palace and is a popular tourist attraction.

Linda Kastrup/Ida Marie Odgaard/Ritzau Scanpix via AP


Ritzau Scanpix via AP

This photo combination shows the old Copenhagen Stock Exchange in 2019, at the top, and on fire on Tuesday at the bottom. The building is located next to Christiansborg Palace and is a popular tourist attraction.

King Frederik wrote on Instagram that “they woke up to the sad spectacle” of the destruction of “an important part of our architectural heritage”.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen wrote on Instagram that it was painful to see that an “irreplaceable cultural heritage” and “a piece of Danish history is on fire”.

The building and spire had been surrounded by scaffolding. Boersen's roof, masonry, sandstone and spire, built in 1615 and considered a flagship example of the Dutch Renaissance style in Denmark, were being renovated, said the Chamber of Commerce, which moved into the building after the departure of the Copenhagen Stock Exchange in 1974. The Chamber owns the building.

Mikkelsen said they planned to give the royal family, the Danish government and other dignitaries a tour of the old stock exchange after the planned renovation later this year. “It’s not going to happen now,” he said.

It is unclear what will become of this iconic building.

Engel-Schmidt, the culture minister, wrote on Denmark as a trading nation.

The nearby Christiansborg Palace has burned down several times, and most recently, in 1990, a fire broke out in an annex of the Danish parliament, known as Proviantgaarden. However, the Old Stock Exchange remained unscathed.

This annex, located in the block behind the Ancienne Bourse, was evacuated as a precaution, as were the ministries in the street behind the burning building.

Police said on social media platform X that a main road in Copenhagen was closed and people should expect the area to be cordoned off for some time. Several bus lines were diverted and Danish media reported huge traffic jams.

Queen Margrethe, who turned 84 on Tuesday, toned down the celebrations due to the fire, TV2 reported. A band from the Royal Life Guard were due to play for the former monarch outside Fredensborg Castle, where she stays during the spring and summer, but this was cancelled.

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