Montreal's arson squad is investigating a fire that destroyed one building and damaged several others in Cote St. Luc.

The fire began shortly after midnight in a building under construction on Tommy Douglas St.

The building was not occupied so it was able to grow uncontrolled until neighbours smelled the smoke and spotted the flames.

"I saw not even a big fire but huge and I was able to feel the heat from inside," said Ascher Berros.

"From the cracks of my blinds I just saw orange like the brightest orange ever and from the top window of my house--we're right across the street--the whole entire house was just completely engulfed in flames," said Noah Wiltzer.

When firefighters arrived the entire building was burning and flames were licking at nearby buildings.

Firefighters were unable to stop the fire before the first building burnt to the ground.

"Within an hour we had what we consider to be the biggest fire code in progress, so we had 100 firefighters on the scene working hard to get control of the fire," said chief Luc Galarneau.

Several nearby buildings were badly damaged by the flames, although residents were able to escape without injury.

Fire operations chief Jean Leblanc said the damage to at least three homes was so extensive that it would likely be weeks before the residents would be able to return home.

Once they had extinguished the flames firefighters were not able to determine the cause of the fire, and so turned the investigation over to the Montreal police arson squad.