Wednesday 19th July 2017, shortly after 5pm, a vegetation fire started under the Plan Praz gondola, in Chamonix.
According to le Dauphine, the fire started in the vegetation, at about 1,700m above sea level, under the eighth pylon of the Plan Praz gondola, where several people were on board.
Indeed, the flames reached quickly up to one meter under the cabins, forcing the Compagnie du Mont-Blanc, main operator of the ski-lifts in Chamonix valley, to evacuate them.
In this case, the procedure stipulates that the Plan Praz gondola must continue to operate, but down below, at the departure station, the boarding has of course been stopped.
The chairman of the Board of Compagnie du Mont-Blanc, Mathieu Dechavanne, and the technical director of the site, took the cable car to evaluate the situation. Then, they thought it was possible to get the passengers back down by the gondola safely until about 7pm.
In fact, around 50 people were evacuated. Fortunately no one was injured.
Many firefighters and a helicopter were mobilized
To extinguish the fire many firefighters were mobilized, including eight members of the mountain group and the helicopter of Chamonix Mont-Blanc and its pilot, Pascal Brun.
The helicopter made nine rotations, equipped with a water tank, to extinguish the fire which destroyed 500 m² of vegetation.
In the evening, the firefighters and two ski patrolmen continued to water and cut off the still smoking stumps.
The origin of the fire
According to le Dauphine, the origin of the fire is not yet known but it may be a cigarette butt. In 2009, a fire started in the vegetation under the Plan Praz gondola. There was a strong suspicion at the time that a cigarette butt was the cause of the fire.
A new information campaign will be launched to recall the smoking ban on the lifts.
The Plan Praz gondola should operate normally today, Thursday 20th July 2017.