Fire on the Riffelalp

Story 61

The Hotel Riffelalp burned down in 1961. To extinguish the fire, the Gornergrat Railway became a fire brigade train.

Winter hotel

In the 1950s, the operators of the Hotel Riffelalp recognised the importance of winter for tourism. That’s why they wanted to make the 150-bed hotel, which until then had only been open in summer, suitable for winter. The necessary installation work was in full swing when a fire broke out on the night of 15—16 February, 1961.

Ten-metre flames

That night, guests and staff at the Hotel Riffelberg, which is around 350 metres higher, noticed the fire and alerted the Zermatt fire brigade. Fortunately, the Hotel Riffelalp was uninhabited at the time of the fire.

Miss Zbinden, the capable manager of the Hotel Riffelberg, deserves a thank you. Together with a barmaid, she saw the mysterious lights at the three windows of the destroyed hotel. The fact that she took the trouble to immediately phone the fitters, who were playing cards, and the cook, the only resident at Riffelalp, saved their lives.
Walliser Bote (Valais Herald), 22.02.1961

Gornergrat Railway as a fire brigade train

Fire chief Petrig immediately alerted his team. Three special trains of the Gornergrat Railway took the firefighters and their machinery from Zermatt to the Riffelalp in around 20 minutes.

Petrig quickly realised that the fire brigade was facing an impossible task because there was only one water reservoir available for fighting the fire, the content of which was insufficient to extinguish such a fire. Therefore, he concentrated on preventing the fire from spreading to the forest.

The hotel burned to the ground and was quickly demolished. This was a severe blow for the Seiler family, as well as for Zermatt Tourism, the Gornergrat Railway and the hotel’s loyal regular guests.

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