Montreal police are seeking to determine the source of a five-alarm fire in a three-storey apartment building on Coloniale Ave. in Plateau Mont-Royal Sunday afternoon.

The fire forced 30 people out of their homes, including David Lopez-Orosco and Lilly Duong, who were set to move into the adjacent building when they first began to smell smoke.

Within minutes, “from the ground to the top of the building it was blazing red orangey flames,” said Lopez-Orosco. “It was intense.”

The blaze began at to 3712 Coloniale, a vacant sixplex that was being renovated.

The damage from smoke and fire hoses made a dozen units, at least temporarily, unlivable. The couple is now living in a hotel.

“We definitely weren't expecting this,” said Duong. “It's a normal moving day and we expected it to go all well and suddenly we're in limbo.”

Most of the units only sustained minor damages, but some are destroyed.

Half the people affected have no insurance.

“We never got insurance unfortunately we realize now that it's important,” said Lopez-Orosco.

Neighbour Ada Sinacore had insurance, but was spared from the damage.

“It was scary, but once I knew my house was okay, I felt blessed because I wasn't in the same position as my friends who kind of lost everything,” she said.

Police are now investigating the cause, and workers will soon begin repair.