Luxurious Paris Ritz Hotel Catches Fire Shortly Before Reopening

The Paris Ritz Hotel went up in flames on Tuesday morning, weeks before it was due to reopen after a refurbishment costing €140 million ($153 million). The blaze started on the seventh floor of the hotel, damaging the attic and roof above, and there is extensive water damage to the floors below.

It was at the Paris Ritz Hotel that Princess Diana spent her last night on Earth with Egyptian billionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed’s son, Dodi, before dying in a tragic car crash at the Pont d’Alma while evading paparazzi.

The hotel has been closed for some four years while renovations were undertaken and was planning on reopening in March this year, but it ended up seeing sixty firefighters, fighting for several hours to contain the blaze. Some 15 fire trucks were on the scene while they fought the fire.

A source close to the renovation team said in a statement, “The roof is destroyed and all the levels underneath have been flooded by water from fire hoses.”

Paris Ritz hotel
[Image via AP Photo/Jacques Brinon]
The fire started early on Tuesday, and around 150 workers had to be evacuated from the site, situated in the Place Vendome Square in Paris. The area is home to the top jewelry boutiques in France’s capital as well as the justice ministry.

According to Captain Yvon Bot of the Paris fire service, so far, the cause of the fire remains a mystery, but it started on the seventh floor of the building, spreading rapidly through the attic to the roof.

The blaze was contained by mid-morning, but reportedly it took some time to reach the smoldering beams and insulation under the eaves of the roof.

Paris Ritz Hotel
[Image via AP Photo/Jacques Brinon]
The Paris Ritz Hotel has quite a history, as it was founded by Cesar Ritz together with the chef Auguste Escoffier back in 1898. Since that time, the hotel has remained a standard for the best in luxury and service.

Reportedly, the hotel was the first in Europe to provide en-suite bathrooms with each guest room, as well as the first to place telephones in each room and electricity.

According to the Telegraph, the hotel has seen some impressive guests in the past, including Frederic Chopin, author Marcel Proust, and fashion designer Coco Chanel. The Hotel Ritz Paris was also, reportedly, the favorite watering hole of the well known American writer, Ernest Hemingway, when he was in town.

However, despite the luxury of the hotel, reportedly the last renovation was performed by its current owner, Mohamed Al-Fayed, back in the mid-1980s. It was decided to close the hotel in 2012 for renovations and improvements to keep the hotel in line with other options in the Paris luxury hotel line, including the Mandarin Oriental, the Peninsula, and the Shangri-La. Reportedly, the Peninsula’s best suite costs 25,000 euros ($27,279) a night.

Paris Ritz Hotel
[Image Paris Hotel Ritz and Place Vendome via Flickr by Alan Light/CC BY 2.0]
The hotel reportedly missed out on the new tourist industry “Palace” status for select five-star hotels, pushing the owner to improve the offerings.

According to Conde Nast Traveler, as part of the new renovations the Paris Ritz Hotel is to have the addition of a “discreet tunnel” to allow the rich and famous to come and go from the hotel unseen. This may have been prompted by the fact that Princess Diana had stayed at the Ritz on her last night back in 1997 before she was killed in the car crash, caused as her driver, Henri Paul – deputy head of security at the hotel – attempted to outrun pursuing paparazzi.

Another addition included in the renovations is to be the world’s first ever Chanel Spa, which reportedly will be stocked with the brand’s products and treatments.

[Photo via Flickr by Henrik Berger Jørgensen/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]