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Notre Dame Fire Causes Reevaluation of Safety Procedures at Historic Philly Attractions

Worshipers and high-profile donors have raised nearly $1 billion to help repair the Notre Dame Cathedral.

If a fire broke out in one of Philadelphia's priceless historic buildings, would it survive?

A devastating fire like the one that destroyed much of Notre Dame Cathedral this week is something preservationists like those that protect Independence Hall, the Betsy Ross House and Christ Church must imagine -- and prepared for.

But it's not easy in a historic building full of irreplaceable artifacts of American history.

Lisa Acker Moulder, director of the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia, said the historic location has an emergency response and preparedness plan and has even prioritized which artifacts to save first.

“The plan addresses any sort of disasters, both natural and man-made. Fire flooding, weather-related disasters, terrorism,” Moulder said.

Because of the fragile nature of many of the centuries-old objects inside the Betsy Ross House, there are no sprinklers inside the building.

“Some of the artifacts need to be protected and they can’t get wet,” Moulder told NBC10.

Instead, employees are trained to use fire extinguishers in the event of a fire-related emergency.

In light of the events at Notre Dame, Philadelphia's iconic Christ Church conducted a test of its water curtain sprinkler system Wednesday morning, with water gushing from its iconic steeple.

The sprinkler system was installed 25 years ago and received a million-dollar upgrade in 2006, according to the church's pastor.

The church's steeple, built in 1754, was the tallest structure in America for over 50 years, according to the Christ Church website. It will undergo renovations starting in June.

Benjamin Franklin helped fund the construction of Christ Church's current building in the 1700s, according to Barbara Hogue of the Christ Church Preservation Trust. George Washington and Betsy Ross also attended services at the famous location, Hogue said.

In a historic city, firefighters consider it part of their responsibility to try to protect artifacts inside burning buildings, said Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel.

“The general approach is the same whether it’s a row house in Philly or a cathedral, or anything in between,” revealed.

Paul Steinke of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia believes the destruction at the Notre Dame Cathedral has made preservationists even more vigilant than before.

"I think everybody who is involved with managing a historic building is watching this very carefully," he said. "You know the old expression -- there but for the grace of God, right? It could happen to us."

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