A rough summer turned even worse today for Compagnie du Mont-Blanc, the firm that operates lifts in the Chamonix Valley. The middle station of the two section Grands Montets tramway caught fire, severing five cables and sending two of the four 60 passenger cabins to the ground. VonRoll built both systems in 1962-63 and the first section was renovated in 1974, followed by the second in 1989. The upper stage got new cabins in 2009 and the lower two were replaced in 2014. The lifts are a combined 15,700 feet long with a massive 6,700 feet of vertical.
The fire began around 1:50 pm in the roof of the intermediate station building, as captured on a nearby webcam. Although the system operates in both winter and summer, apparently no trips were in progress at the time as the building was being renovated.
Helicopters fought the fire all afternoon and it is now extinguished. The public is being warned to stay clear of the area as three ropes are still hanging on but could give way. There are no reports of injuries, thankfully.
You can view pictures of these two tramways in better times here. The same operator’s famous Aiguille du Midi summit cable car unexpectedly closed for the second time this year in late August for an unscheduled rope replacement and won’t reopen until December. The Grands Montets trams will probably take much longer to rebuild.