A total of 150 firefighters in Sherbrooke, Que., worked in shifts into the early hours of the morning on Wednesday to save buildings in the city's downtown area in the wake of a four-alarm fire.
The fire started Tuesday afternoon inside a building at 16 Wellington Street South.
Following analysis from investigators, the Sherbrooke police department released a statement Wednesday saying the circumstances of the fire have led them to believe it is a fire of "suspicious origin."
The fire made the building unstable and it was demolished and reduced to rubble as a safety measure.
Sebastien Manseau is the CEO of Services Gest-Immo, the property manager in the building.
He says he called 911 after his team discovered the fire just after 2 p.m. and evacuated residents in the 14 apartment units. No one was injured.
"There was about nine tenants present at that time. And by the time I evacuated the last one on the fourth floor it was time to get out. The fire was pushing us," said Manseau.
The property manager that leases the building says nine tenants were present when the fire broke out. (Gordon Lambie/CBC)
He said his focus is helping tenants find a place to live.
"That's our main concern because all our tenants cannot reach us," said Manseau.
"I no longer have any keys of any building. I have around 120 building for 800 apartments. I no longer have any keys. I no longer have any paper trail of all the leases."
A major fire in Sherbrooke, Que., snarled traffic and closed streets but there were no injuries. (Gordon Lambie/CBC)
Nearby residences were also evacuated after carbon monoxide was detected. The city has opened a shelter for evacuees.
"We had teams inside and outside to contain the fire," said fire chief Martin Primeau.
"There was a collapse inside. The building just collapsed on itself inside and the outside a bit too. That's why we pulled our teams out."
Firefighters rushed to the burning building on Tuesday afternoon. (Gordon Lambie/CBC)
On Tuesday afternoon, the column of smoke was visible for several kilometres. In addition to apartment units, the building housed two businesses, one of which had opened just a few weeks ago.
With buildings crowded close to each other in the downtown core, the fire department worked around the clock to keep the fire from spreading.
The electricity was cut to the area after a fire broke out at 16 Wellington Street South. (Emy Lafortune/Radio-Canada)