Moise and Andrea Cerson sat and watched from Hawke's Bay as the spire of the cathedral they used to map their city fell to a rampaging fire.

The 850-year-old famous Notre Dame cathedral was all but gutted in a massive blaze which broke out around 6.50pm on Monday (local time).

Its spire and roof have collapsed but the main structure has been saved and the fire has been stopped from spreading to the northern belfry.

In this combination of photos, flames and smoke rise as the spire on the Notre Dame Cathedral collapses. Photo / AP
In this combination of photos, flames and smoke rise as the spire on the Notre Dame Cathedral collapses. Photo / AP

Owners of Ya Bon French Baker, Hastings' husband-and-wife duo Moise and Andrea Cerson said they, like so many in the French community, felt a deep sense of sadness seeing the pictures and video of Notre Dame going up in flames.

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"We are sorry to have lost such a great, historical monument", Andrea says.

For Moise, who grew up in Paris, Notre Dame was more than just a landmark.

Andrea and Moise Cerson, owners of Ya Bon French Baker, Hastings
Andrea and Moise Cerson, owners of Ya Bon French Baker, Hastings "saddened" by the Notre Dame fire. Photo / File

"For Parisians it is part of what they see everyday, it is not just a tourist attraction.

"These landmarks are not just landmarks. You walk past them everyday. They become part of your map of the city.

"It's very sad."

Flames and smoke rise as the spire of Notre Dame cathedral is on fire in Paris. Photo / AP
Flames and smoke rise as the spire of Notre Dame cathedral is on fire in Paris. Photo / AP

Central Hawke's Bay's Maria Washington-Parker, who has visited Notre Dame three times, said she spent Tuesday feeling "devastated".

"Last time I was there was in 2015 with my daughter Emma. Every time I go we stay just over the road from Notre Dame in an apartment.

"And we always have breakfast right next door in a cafe."

Notre Dame holds a very special place in Washington-Parker's heart.

"It's a beautiful little area and it was such a beautiful time for me and my daughter to experience together.

"I have always loved the area in Paris. Most people would want to go to the Eiffel Tower but for me it was always Notre Dame."

Her love for the landmark stems from the first time she saw Notre Dame.

"When I first went to Paris I went there for my 30th birthday with my mother.

"We went down the Seine in the boat and we looked up and saw it and it was like a religious experience."

For her, a visit to Paris will never be the same again after the Notre Dame fire.

"I am devastated, it feels so unreal. I couldn't believe it when I saw it on the news this morning.

"It's not going to be the same."