A five-alarm fire burned Friday in Montreal's Longue-Pointe neighbourhood, in the east of the city.

The Montreal fire department (SIM) issued the first alarm for a fire at a three-storey strip mall at the intersection of Sherbrooke Street East and Carignan Avenue.

Montreal police (SPVM) report that the first call came in at 7:15 a.m. and officers quickly worked to evacuate the building. Around 20 families were forced out of their homes by the blaze and were taken in by the Red Cross.

The building's ground floor is occupied by businesses including a sushi restaurant, a tobacco store and a bar.

The SIM said the fire went to five alarm just under an hour later.

Police spokesperson Jean-Pierre Brabant said that two officers required medical attention for smoke inhalation. The officers were treated on scene and transported to a hospital as a precaution.

They're expected to make a full recovery.

"I was in a cloud of smoke," recalled Helene Jutras, who was evacuated from her home. "The firefighters took me by the arms."

Firefighter William Murray said the extreme cold temperatures that swept across Quebec Friday made putting out the flames a challenge.

"The equipment freezes, so sometimes we need more trucks on site just to bring us new equipment, or working equipment," Murray explained.

Residents were advised to avoid the area for much of the day Friday.