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Woman Held After Paris Apartment Fire Kills 10

At least 10 people have been killed Tuesday as flames engulfed a nine-storey apartment building in Paris, sending residents to the roof and clambering across balconies to escape.

A 40-year-old woman who lived in the building, said to have a history of psychiatric problems, was arrested nearby and held on suspicion of having set the fire not long before.

Multiple neighbours said they heard the suspect and her neighbour, an off-duty firefighter, arguing over the woman's music before the fire broke out on Monday.

The firefighter and his girlfriend told officers they were leaving to sleep elsewhere in peace and thought the neighbour had lost her mind and one day there would be an accident because of her, according to a police report seen by The Associated Press.

Firefighters at the scene of the blaze in Paris. Image: AAP

In an interview with Le Parisien newspaper, the 22-year-old firefighter said he returned to the building a few minutes later, shortly after midnight, hoping the woman had gone.

Instead, he ran into her in the stairwell, which was already beginning to smell of smoke.

"She wished me good luck, telling me that I loved flames," he recalled in the interview.

Another resident later told him the woman put paper and wood in front of his apartment door, the firefighter told Le Parisien, which did not give his name. The building is on rue Erlanger in the 16th arrondissement, one of the calmest and priciest districts of Paris.

It was the deadliest fire in Paris since the April 2005 hotel fire near the capital's famed Opera that killed 24 people.

Over 30 people were being treated for "relatively" light injuries. Among the injured were at least eight firefighters.

At least 10 people have died following the blaze. Image: AAP

Survivors described a chaos of smoke and flames, and the young firefighter said he ran upstairs to try and evacuate the building.

One neighbour recalled clambering out of her eighth-floor apartment and over balconies to reach safety.

"I climbed across several balconies, with nothing beneath, and then was backed into a corner. There were people climbing hand-over-hand to get to where I was and escape the flames," said a resident identified only as Claire, her eyes wide with shock soon after her rescue.

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Another resident, an off-duty police officer, threw on clothes and rang doorbell after doorbell, trying desperately to alert his neighbours.

"I couldn't save everyone. I can't forgive myself," the man identified as Fabrice told France Info radio, adding that smoke and flames prevented him from climbing higher than the fourth floor.

Jacqueline Ravier, who lives on the same street as the apartment building, described seeing a young man blackened by smoke and a woman motionless on the ground.

Officials said suspect had "a history of psychiatric problems".

A judicial official told the AP the woman was drunk when officers detained her.

A police patrol responding to a rubbish can fire around the same time spotted the woman with her hand in another rubbish can, according to a second police report obtained by The AP.

She was staring at the firetrucks streaming toward the building, the document states. The young firefighter said he saw her as well.

"She was waiting to see what would happen," he said in the newspaper interview.

The document says the officers put the woman under brief surveillance and detained her at 12.45am on Tuesday after she allegedly tied a scarf around a car's rear-view mirror and raised a cigarette lighter to it.