As onlookers watched a fire burn through a building in Point St. Charles on Thursday afternoon, the heat was sweltering -- so hot that windows across the street had started to crack and break.

Witnesses’ nearby said they heard an explosion when the fire began around 2:30 p.m. in the three-storey building, located at the corner of Centre St. and Ropery St.

The fire department said that it took less than an hour before the blaze had completely levelled the building, and had also torched a nearby car.

The building was undergoing renovations so no one was living inside, but neighbouring buildings were quickly evacuated.  Several people in wheelchairs sought shelter in a nearby hairdressing salon.

There were no injuries reported, but at least 20 people were forced out of their homes as a precaution. Many in the area were left without power as a result of the incident. 

David Oyama was on Centre St. when he saw smoke and flames on the roof, so he ran to nearby buildings to alert anyone that might have been inside.

“When I knocked there was a mother, father and child plus the grandmother upstairs,” he said.

Those forced to leave were worried about the possessions they had left behind.

Christian Cloutier feared for his computer, and the remainder of his belongings – left inside his apartment and uninsured.

The fire department is investigating how the blaze began.