FRENCH firefighters have won a long battle to save the main structure of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, after a colossal fire caused the spire to crash to the ground and wiped out centuries of heritage.

A Paris fire official said the structure had been preserved after hundreds of fire fighters worked to extinguish the flames.

Last night a hole left by Notre Dame's fallen spire was still burning and sparks were spilling down from the cathedral's vaulted ceilings more than five hours after the fire broke out near the top of the Gothic landmark.

A view of the cathedral came late on Monday while French President Emmanuel Macron was visiting Notre Dame, getting a glimpse of the immense damage the blaze caused.

HeraldScotland:

The president vowed to rebuild the medieval cathedral and expressed relief that "the worst had been avoided".

The cause is not yet clear but officials say it could be linked to extensive renovation works under way.   The Paris prosecutor's office said it was currently being investigated as an accident.

READ MORE: Notre Dame fire: French President Emmanuel Macron vows to rebuild cathedral

Paris fire brigade chief Jean-Claude Gallet said "we can consider that the main structure of Notre-Dame has been saved and preserved" as well as the two towers.

The UK's ambassador to France says the nation stands ready to help with the rebuilding.

Ed Llewellyn said he has been in touch with Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright about what assistance Britain can offer, saying the Government is looking into the matter.

He said his "heart goes out to the people of France" after the huge blaze ripped through the 850-year-old cathedral in the centre of Paris.

Mr Llewellyn, who has been at the scene, said the famous building was "wounded" but "still standing defiant and very, very beautiful".

French ambassador to the UK Jean-Pierre Jouyet said he wanted to "pay many thanks to British authorities, to British people and all the European and people of the world" who have offered condolences and pledged their support.

He said it will take many years and will be "very, very hard" to rebuild, calling it an "enormous" moment for Paris.

But Mr Jouyet also said there is a "sense of togetherness" in the city, adding that as he walked over a bridge near to the cathedral he had "never seen so many people, whatever their faith, wanting to be present".

As firefighters continue to work at the site, the fundraising programme has begun, with French tycoon Bernard Arnault and his luxury goods group LVMH having pledged 200 million euros (£173 million) towards the reconstruction of Notre Dame.

Last night, no lights were on, but the simmering red hole from the fallen spire provided illumination. Streams of sparks rained from the gap onto the floor where the church choir usually stands during services.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said earlier that most artworks and religious relics were removed from Notre Dame as firefighters worked to control the blaze.

France's culture minister Franck Riester posted photos on social media of people loading art on to trucks.

Michelle Obama, who was in Paris on Monday on a book tour, said "my heart aches with the people of France".

"The majesty of Notre Dame - the history, artistry, and spirituality - took our breath away, lifting us to a higher understanding of who we are and who we can be," she tweeted.

The relic of the crown of thorns and a number of priceless artefacts were taken from the cathedral to Paris City Hall for safekeeping.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo shared an image of the objects on Twitter.

"The crown of thorns, the tunic of Saint Louis and several other major works are now in a safe place," she said.

World leaders have continued to share their messages of support following the Notre Dame fire.

South Korean president Moon Jae-in said the damage was "a loss for all of us" and called for the world to come together to rebuild the Paris landmark.

Mr Moon said the French people's "spirit of liberty, equality and fraternity will never be dashed by flames".

Japan's chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga also expressed his sympathy, saying: "Its damage is a loss to the world and our hearts ache."

Ashes from the blaze were scattered along the footpaths of the Seine on Tuesday morning.

Bridges on to the Ile de la Cite - the island in the Seine where the cathedral stands - were closed but joggers were free to take their morning run on the river banks either side of the building.

Crowds of people had come to view the damage and take pictures, while firefighters could be seen taking a break on the walls around Notre Dame's gardens.

Workmen could be seen on the cathedral's stone balconies, while scaffolding surrounds the area where the spire once stood.

Refuse collectors on the Seine said scaffolding had been in place before the fire for renovation works.

"It's incredible that it didn't fall," one said.

Windows to the rear of the building were blackened but also seemed to be intact.

Firefighters were still hosing the building with water jets at 7am on Tuesday.

Scores of Parisians came to the banks of the Seine on Monday morning to view the damage.

Daniel Etieve, 70, said: "I saw the flames on the television so this morning when I got up I quickly came here.

"It's a very sad picture. For over 800 years this cathedral has been passed from generation to generation.