Some of the 400 people displaced after a fire in a west Edmonton condominium complex were told at a meeting on Tuesday that it could be months before they can return to their homes.

About one-third of the units at the South Hamptons condo were destroyed or severely damaged in the fire early Monday morning.

People in the most damaged suites will be waiting at least a year or more to move back in. Others are facing a wait of two to six months.

A representative of the condo told CBC News that the Centre and North wings sustained the most damage so residents will be out longer than those in the South Wing.

Resident Shaunie Tonsi isn’t sure what condition her suite is in. She says she has been crying on and off since the fire.

“I'm kinda calm now and I'm chain smoking,” she said, with a laugh.

“There's nothing we can do now, what's done is done and you’ve just got to deal with it from here… Nobody died, nobody was seriously injured or anything like that. The firefighters were really good. They got everybody out.”

Tonsi said the closed-door meeting was emotional because some people are still missing pets, while others have no insurance.

Karim Wilson said that some people are using sarcasm as a way of hiding their emotions.

“A lot of people are really down, a lot of people have got to the point where they know that this is it — ‘We have to move on, let's figure out what we need to do to move on.’”

Officials are arranging for residents to grab wallets and other essential items in quick twenty-minute blitzes starting on Thursday. 

Once engineers give the OK, people will be allowed to get their vehicles out of the parking lot and underground parkade.

The cause of the fire has been linked to a cigarette butt placed in a balcony planter and the damage estimate was originally pegged at $8 million. Edmonton Fire Rescue has updated that figure to $10 million because of extensive fire, water and smoke damage to an undetermined number of suites.