MONTREAL - Firefighters were able to control and contain a large fire in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, but were not able to stop it from destroying a building.

The Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu fire department declared a general alarm on Tuesday afternoon after a large fire tore through a three-floor apartment building on Content Street.

Over 100 fire fighters were on the scene, evacuating the building of 26 residents, including a man by the name of Tommy who works nights.

"Somebody came ringing at the door telling us the block was on fire. We were astonished, so we got out," said Tommy.

The majority of people who live in the building were at work when the first alarm was sounded around 4:00 p.m.

The fire spread quickly along the rof and made it unsafe for firefighters. Shortly after they arrived the roof collapsed.

"We couldn't fight the fire from inside because of the roof collapsing, so we had to go in defensive mode with the big streams outside with the ladders," said Fire Chief Jean Laporte.

When firefighters were able to go back inside they progressed extremely slowly because of all the spot fires "under the roof and between the third story. So it's really difficult to go and reach the fire right now," said Laporte.

Welding work on some steel balconies is suspected of starting the blaze. An investigation will need to be mounted before a cause can be found.

No injuries have been reported.