Historic Danish building devastated by serious fire a “national disaster”

A large fire broke out at Copenhagen’s Old Stock Exchange in Denmark on 16 April 2024, with flames toppling the spire and damage resulting in a “collapse of the façade”.

Multiple crews from the Greater Copenhagen Fire Department were dispatched to the incident at the 17th-century building, understood to be one of the oldest in the Danish capital. According to AP Newsthe fire broke out on the copper roof of the building, which was covered in scaffolding while it was undergoing renovations.

As reported by The Guardian, various videos and images were shared of firefighters and volunteers rescuing many pieces of artwork that were on display inside the building. Brian Mikkelsen, chief of the Danish Chamber of Commerce, said they had been able to “rescue a lot,” but added that the incident was a “national disaster”.

As reported by Reuters, Mikkelsen told reporters: "Everybody is crying at the Danish Chamber of Commerce right now.

"It's our cultural heritage that I'm looking at. It's 400 years that have shaped Danish cultural history and the society we live in today."

While crews worked to stabilise the free-standing outer walls of the building, two days after the fire broke out, the fire department confirmed that there had been a “collapse of the façade”. Fire department chief, Jakob Vedsted Andersen said: “Half of the building is devastated by fire, and only the walls were standing. We were trying to secure the walls so they could remain. Unfortunately, the wall collapsed. This historical wall collapsed towards the canal, so nearly 50% of the walls in the fire-damaged building have collapsed.

Now we’re going to have a new plan and of course, it’s going to be busy to make sure that nobody gets hurt in this fire and we’re still trying to save as much as we can.”

In the early hours of 19 April, work began to cut the scaffolding around the historic building into pieces. The fire department stated that it would be a “complicated job” requiring constant assessment of the structures. In an update posted on X (formerly Twitter), the fire department said: “Heavy construction equipment has been called in to remove scaffolding and building parts. That process is incredibly challenging and the risk of further collapse is imminent. The aim of the effort is to secure the undamaged part of the Stock Exchange.”

While Copenhagen Police have cordoned off the surrounding area as work continues, it confirmed that it had launched an “extensive investigation to uncover the cause of the fire”, however, the entire process could take several months. In a statement, Deputy Police Inspector Brian Belling said

"Already shortly after the outbreak of the fire, the investigation was started, and for the time being we have carried out interviews, ensured surveillance, and carried out a long series of investigative steps. But of course, there is still a lot to be done, especially since at this stage we have not yet had the opportunity to examine the Stock Exchange itself and carry out the fire technical investigations."

In terms of experience, it can take a long time to uncover the cause of a fire in such investigations. Therefore, we must ask for a little patience from the population while we carry out our work. Fortunately, in the Danish police we have some incredibly skilled employees who are used to dealing with both extensive and complicated fire investigations, so we will do everything in our power to find out what happened,” he added.