Firefighters battle a blaze at the Washington Hotel in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside Thursday afternoon. ((CBC))

Eight people were treated for smoke inhalation Thursday after a fire broke out at the Washington Hotel in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Firefighters were called to the nearly 100-year-old heritage building at 177 East Hastings St. shortly after 1 p.m.

They used ladders to rescue at least four people from the building. There were no reports of any injuries.

Early reports suggested the blaze started on the third floor of the eight-storey building, but a spokesman for Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services said it began on the ground floor and spread to the second and third floors.

The building is owned by the City of Vancouver and the provincial and federal governments and run by the Portland Hotel Society as single-room-occupancy low-income housing.

A spokesperson for the PHS said the building has a sprinkler system, but fire chief Capt. Gabe Roder said sprinklers did not activate.

It is not known when residents will be allowed back into the building.

Police closed off the 100 block of East Hastings Street between Gore Avenue and Columbia Avenue in both directions, as well as Main Street between Cordova Street and Pender Street while fire crews fought the blaze.