A massive fire tore through a seniors' complex under construction in Vancouver Friday night, drawing a three-alarm response from local firefighters.

Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services assistant chief Ron Coulson says there is no word yet on the cause of the blaze, which broke out before 6:40 p.m. PT at the Granville Gardens complex at Granville Street and 49th Avenue.

At the fire's peak, flames could be seen shooting up dozens of metres into the air, and a tall plume of dark smoke rising from the site was visible across Metro Vancouver.

The fire closed down a huge stretch of Granville Street, a major thoroughfare, snarling traffic and delaying buses.

As crews poured water from above, crowds of people gathered below to watch the firefighting effort.

No one was living in the complex, which was under construction and estimated to be about 80 per cent complete.

According to the Granville Gardens website, the complex was supposed to start welcoming new residents into its 62 suites beginning next month.

Google Maps: Granville at 49th Ave.