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Arson suspected in deadly Paris apartment building blaze

Arson suspected in deadly Paris fire

Paris -- Paris' deadliest fire in over a decade claimed 10 lives, sending fleeing residents to the roof to escape the flames that engulfed their apartment building before dawn Tuesday. A 40-year-old female resident, said to have a history of psychiatric problems, was detained near the eight-story building in the quiet neighborhood as police opened an investigation into voluntary arson resulting in death.

It is the deadliest fire in Paris since the April 2005 hotel fire near the capital's famed Opera that killed 24 people.

France Fire
In this image provided on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019 by the Brigade de Sapeurs-Pompiers de Paris (Paris Fire Brigade) a fire rages through the top floors of an apartment building in Paris, France. AP

French President Emmanuel Macron took to Twitter to express that "France wakes up with emotion after the fire in rue Erlanger in Paris last night."

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner was the highest-ranking official on the scene, as plumes of smoke speckled the sky.

"I want to salute the huge mobilization of the Paris firefighters," he said. "More than 250 people arrived immediately and, throughout the night, saved over 50 people in truly exceptional conditions."

Firefighters rescued some from the roof as well as others who had clambered out of windows to escape the flames.

Castaner said the blaze that started on the second floor had been extinguished, and that over 30 people were being treated for "relatively" light injuries.

The fire was extinguished before dawn but firefighters were still going door-to-door in the eight-story structure to ensure there were no more victims and prevent additional flareups, spokesman Clement Cognon of the city fire service said. Emergency workers were working to make sure the building doesn't collapse from the fire damage. 

Firefighters are seen near apartment building that caught fire in tony 16th arrondissement in Paris on February 5, 2019 Getty

"The situation was already dramatic when the firefighters arrived," Cognon said, adding that about 50 people had been rescued, many from inside the building.

The fire choked the air with smoke and sent orange flames into the overnight sky. 

The building is less than a mile from the Roland Garros stadium that hosts the French Open tennis tournament, and close to the popular Bois de Boulogne park on the city's western edge. It's on Rue Erlanger in the 16th arrondissement, or district, one of the most high-end and calmest districts of Paris.

More than 200 firefighters and emergency workers were on the scene, Paris police said, and the street was blocked off. People in neighboring buildings were also evacuated.

A witness said she saw flames shooting out for hours from the top of the building and smoke-covered victims fleeing.

Police officers work at the scene where a residential building had caught fire in Paris
Police officers at scene of deadly residential building fire in upscale section of Paris on February 5, 2019 REUTERS

Jacqueline Ravier, who lives across the street, said "I heard a woman screaming in the street, crying and screaming for help."

She said shaken, evacuated residents were brought to her building and the one next door while firefighters continued to fight the flames. She described seeing "a young man in his underwear," blackened by smoke, and a woman motionless on the ground outside.

"We feel the smoke," she said. "What's surprising is how long it lasted."

The fire came a month after a deadly explosion and blaze linked to a gas leak in a Paris bakery.

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