11 killed in France after fire at vacation home for adults with learning disabilities


Eleven people died in a fire that tore through a holiday home for disabled adults in eastern France early Wednesday, officials said.

The blaze broke out before 6.30 a.m. as the vacationers were still asleep in the building in the town of Wintzenheim, about 70 kilometres south of Strasbourg.

“I can confirm there are 11 victims,” deputy prosecutor Nathalie Kielwasser told reporters as French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and other officials visited the site of the fire.

Local media said those who died included 10 people with disabilities and one caregiver. No other information about the victims was provided.

Authorities said 17 people were evacuated, including one who was sent to a hospital with serious injuries. Lt. Col. Philippe Hauwiller, who was leading the rescue work of firefighters.

Government officials visit the scene of a fire as firefighters stand to the left.
French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, wearing a white sweater, speaks to local officials as she visits the scene of the fire in Wintzenheim on Wednesday. (Sebastien Bozon/AFP/Getty Images)

Hauwiller said the fire likely started on the home’s upper floor and that an investigation would determine the cause. Only those who were staying on the ground floor of the private accommodation managed to escape, he said.

The 11 remaining occupants were trapped on the upper floor and in a mezzanine area that collapsed, according to Hauwiller. 

Fire spread quickly

The ground floor was made of stone and the upper part of the building was built entirely of wood in the traditional style of the region, which might partly explain why the fire spread so quickly.

The fire destroyed about two-thirds of the building.

Firefighters work on the top floor of a building destroyed by fire.
Firefighters inspect what’s left of the facility in Wintzenheim. (Sebastien Bozon/AFP/Getty Images)

The facility was rented for the summer by two charities that take care of people with learning disabilities. Many of the victims came from the city of Nancy in eastern France, a statement from the Haut-Rhin prefecture said.

Christophe Marot, the secretary general of the local administration, said on news broadcaster France Info that the vacationers included adults with “slight intellectual disabilities.”

Firefighters work to extinguish a fire.
Firefighters work to extinguish a fire that erupted Wednesday at a vacation home for people with learning disabilities in the town of Wintzenheim, in northeastern France. (Sebastien Bozon/AFP/Getty Images)

The fire department deployed 76 firefighters, four fire engines and four ambulances to contain the blaze and treat the victims. Forty police officers were also mobilized.

French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on X: “In the face of this tragedy, my thoughts are with the victims, the injured and their families. Thank you to our security forces and emergency services.”

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