Arson Suspected in Devastating Paris Fire

Maya Weaver '21, Staff Writer


The cool waters of the Seine gently lap against its banks, reflecting the twinkling lights of Paris, France on a seemingly pristine night. However, in the distance, a far more sinister light illuminates the sky, as clouds of smoke seem to scorch the air, visible even miles away. Blistering fumes of fire ravage an apartment building, sending black smoke through its windows. Firefighters and onlookers scurry frantically below like ants, helpless against the scorching inferno that threatens to consume the entire eight-story construction.

In early February, a fire killed ten people and injured 37 in a 16th Arrondissement apartment building in Paris. This fire is the deadliest Paris has seen in over a decade. The last disaster of this proportion occurred in 2005 when 24 people were killed in a fire that destroyed a hotel near Paris Opera.

Firefighters arrived at the apartment building around one am, but by that time, the fire had already started on several floors. In the time it took to put out the fire around seven a.m., the firefighters had evacuated about fifty people, injuring several of their unit in the process. Unfortunately, the fire started in a courtyard inside the building, and as a result, the firefighters could not access the fire from the streets. They had no choice but to use hand ladders to help the residents escape, rather than mechanical ladders, slowing their rescue efforts in the process.

Authorities suspect that a gas leak may have started the blaze. However, evidence also indicates that an unnamed women may have intentionally set the fire. Police took the woman into custody when they found her near the scene, intoxicated and attempting to set fire to a car. The 40-year-old woman, a resident of the apartment, had only recently been released from a police psychiatric facility. Before the fire, she reportedly had a feud with her neighbor, a fireman. In addition, she was previously arrested for setting fire to public property.